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Full text of "Jacques Lacan - Ecrits"




ll .'r>™* a 

The HRST Complete 

Edition ir EngLkh *|5 

I I 



Translated by BRJCE FINK 

I * 


By Jacques Lacan 


The Seminar of Jacques Lacan Book I 

The Seminar of Jacques Lacan Book II 

The Seminar of Jacques Lacan Book III 

The Seminar of Jacques Lacan Book VII 

The Seminar of Jacques Lacan Book XX 

Ecrits: A Selection 

Feminine Sexuality 

The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho- Analysis 










W. W. Norton & Company 
New York • London 

Copyright © 1966, 1970, 1971, 1999 by Editions du Seuil 

English translation copyright © 2006, 2002 by W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. 

All rights reserved 

Printed in the United States of America 

For information about permission to reproduce selections from this book, write to Permissions, W. W. 
Norton & Company, Inc., 500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 101 10 

Manufacturing by RR Donnelley, Bloomsburg 
Book design by Rhea Braunstein 
Production manager: Julia Druskin 

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data 

Lacan, Jacques, 1901— 

[Ecrits. English] 

Ecrits : the first complete edition in English / Jacques Lacan ; translated by Bruce Fink in collaboration 
with Heloi'se Fink and Russell Grigg. 
p. cm. 

Includes bibliographical references and index. 

ISBN 978-0-393-06115-4 (hardcover) 

1. Psychoanalysis. I. Fink, Bruce, 1956- II. Title. 

BF173.L14213 2005 

150.19'5— dc22 


W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 500 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y 10110 

W. W. Norton & Company Ltd., Castle House, 75/76 Wells Street, London WIT 3QT 


Table of Contents 

Acknowledgments ix 

Translator's Note xi 

Abbreviations Used in the Text xiv 


Overture to this Collection 



Seminar on "The Purloined Letter" 






On My Antecedents 

Beyond the "Reality Principle" 

The Mirror Stage as Formative of the /Function 
as Revealed in Psychoanalytic Experience 

Aggressiveness in Psychoanalysis 



7 A Theoretical Introduction to the Functions of 
Psychoanalysis in Criminology 102 

8 Presentation on Psychical Causality 123 


9 Logical Time and the Assertion of Anticipated Certainty 161 

1 Presentation on Transference 1 76 


1 1 On the Subject Who Is Finally in Question 189 

12 The Function and Field of Speech and Language 

in Psychoanalysis 197 

13 Variations on the Standard Treatment 269 

14 On a Purpose 303 

1 5 Introduction to Jean Hyppolite 's Commentary 

on Freud 's " Verneinung" 308 

1 6 Response to Jean Hyppolite 's Commentary on Freud 's 
"Verneinung" 318 

17 The Freudian Thing, or the Meaning of the Return 

to Freud in Psychoanalysis 334 

18 Psychoanalysis and Its Teaching 364 

19 The Situation of Psychoanalysis and the Training 

of Psychoanalysts in 1956 384 

20 The Instance of the Letter in the Unconscious, 

or Reason Since Freud 4 1 2 


2 1 On a Question Prior to Any Possible Treatment of Psychosis 445 

22 The Direction of the Treatment and the Principles 

of Its Power 489 

23 Remarks on Daniel Lagache 's Presentation: 
"Psychoanalysis and Personality Structure" 543 

24 The Signification of the Phallus 575 

25 In Memory of Ernest Jones: On His Theory of Symbolism 585 

26 On an Ex Post Facto Syllabary 602 

27 Guiding Remarks for a Convention on Female Sexuality 610 


28 The Youth of Gide, or the Letter and Desire 623 

29 Kant with Sade 645 


30 The Subversion of the Subject and the Dialectic of Desire 

in the Freudian Unconscious 671 

31 Position of the Unconscious 703 

32 On Freud's "Trieb" and the Psychoanalyst's Desire 722 

33 Science and Truth 726 

Appendix I: A Spoken Commentary on Freud's "Verneinung" 

by Jean Hyppolite 746 

Appendix II: Metaphor of the Subject 755 

Translator's Endnotes 759 

Classified Index of the Major Concepts 85 1 

Commentary on the Graphs 858 

Bibliographical References in Chronological Order 864 

Index of Freud 's German Terms 869 

Index of Proper Names 87 1 


My work on this translation received support from several quarters: from 
Jacques- Alain Miller, the general editor of Lacan's work in France and head of 
the Ecole de la Cause Freudienne, who approved the project back in 1994; 
from the National Endowment for the Humanities, which committed $90,000 
over the course of three years to prepare this new translation; from the Soci- 
ety for the Humanities at Cornell University, where I was a fellow during the 
1997—1998 academic year and released from my usual teaching and adminis- 
trative responsibilities; and last but far from least, from Duquesne University, 
where I teach, which provided financial backing for several years of the 
project and generously reduced my teaching load on a number of occasions. 
At Duquesne I would especially like to thank Drs. Russell Walsh, Constance 
Ramirez, Andrea Lex, William Fischer, and the late Michael Weber for their 
unfailing efforts on my behalf. 

Translator's Note 

The translation provided here includes all 35 of the texts published in the 
complete French edition of Lacan's Ecrits (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1966), 
only nine of which were included in Ecrits: A Selection (New York and Lon- 
don: Norton, 2002). About half of these texts have never come out in English 
before, and the translation supplied here for each text is entirely new. 

Given the degree to which Lacan's texts have been — and will continue to 
be, I suspect — subjected to close readings, I have been careful to respect his 
terminology as much as possible. I have translated here with the notion that 
the repetition of terms from one sentence to the next, from one paragraph to 
the next, and from one text to the next, may be springboards for future inter- 
pretations and have attempted to either repeat them identically in the transla- 
tion or at least provide the French in brackets or endnotes so that the 
repetition is not lost. 

All paragraph breaks here correspond to Lacan's, and the original French 
pagination is included in the margins to facilitate comparison with the French 
text, referred to throughout as "Ecrits 1966." The footnotes included at the 
end of each text are Lacan's, several of which were added in the smaller two- 
volume edition published in the Points collection by Seuil in 1970 and 1971 as 
Ecrits /and Ecrits II, referred to throughout simply as "Points." Words or 
phrases followed by an asterisk (*) are given by Lacan in English in the 
French original. Translator's interpolations are always placed in square 

xii Translator's Note 

brackets and translator's notes are included at the back of the book, keyed to 
the marginal French pagination. 

Although the texts are placed in chronological order for the most part, 
they were written for very different occasions and audiences and need not be 
read in any specific order (indeed, I'd recommend starting with "Seminar on 
'The Purloined Letter,'" "The Situation of Psychoanalysis in 1956," or 
"Function and Field"). It might be helpful to keep in mind that the first few 
pages of many of the texts are far more difficult than what follows, and that 
the persistent reader is usually well rewarded (the last few pages are often 
quite dense as well!). Should the English sometimes strike the reader as 
obscure, I can only point to the difficulty of the French original and indicate 
that I have already removed as many obscurities as I could at this time. 


Heloise Fink was a constant collaborator throughout this project, hashing 
out difficult formulations and constructions with me day in and day out, 
comparing the French and English line by line, and researching obscure 
terms and expressions. She helped me avoid myriad pitfalls, and together we 
explored the ways in which two languages encounter and miss each other. 

Russell Grigg, psychoanalyst and professor of philosophy at Deakin Univer- 
sity in Australia, provided innumerable corrections, alternative readings, and 
recommendations concerning style on the basis of his close comparison of 
the French and English texts. He made a very substantial contribution to the 
finished product. 

A number of other people helped me struggle with Lacan's texts on a more 
occasional basis. Jacques- Alain Miller graciously devoted a couple of after- 
noons to helping me with some of Lacan's more difficult formulations and 
responded to further questions in writing; Dany Nobus commented exten- 
sively on the entire translation, providing myriad corrections, small and large, 
and hundreds of references; Slavoj Zizek advised me on a number of Hegelian 
references; Richard Klein (Cornell University) supplied insight into several 
passages; Henry Sullivan (University of Missouri- Columbia) provided useful 
comments on "The Mirror Stage"; Stacey E. Levine (Duquesne University) 
checked the mathematical footnote in "Position of the Unconscious"; Marc 
Silver collaborated on a draft of "Logical Time" that we published in 1988 and 
made valuable suggestions regarding "Function and Field"; Mario Beira gave 

Translator's Note xiii 

helpful feedback on "Direction of the Treatment"; Yael Goldman, Matt 
Baldwin, Naoki Nishikawa, Dan Collins, Rong-Bang Peng, Slawomir 
Maslon, and Thomas Svolos provided a number of references; Cristina 
Laurita went through the manuscript with a fine-tooth comb; and Anette 
Schwarz and Suzanne Stewart assisted me with several Latin phrases. Margot 
Backas at the National Endowment for the Humanities and Susan Buck-Morss 
at Cornell University supported this project in more ways than one. 

I have also looked to several published sources for help with references, 
including Anthony Wilden's early translation of Lacan's "The Function and 
Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis" in The Language of the Self 
(Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1975), William Richardson and 
John Muller's Lacan and Language (New York: International Universities 
Press, 1982) and their edited collection The Purloined Poe (Baltimore: The 
Johns Hopkins University Press, 1988), James Swenson's translation of 
"Kant with Sade" in October 51 (1989), and Alan Sheridan's 1977 version of 
Ecrits: A Selection. The first four provide far more notes than I could include 
here and readers may find their additional notes helpful. I have checked the 
notes I have borrowed for further corroboration and my judgment will some- 
times be seen to differ from theirs. 

Despite input from several collaborators and consultation of varied 
sources (my favorites being the recent Robert: Dictionnaire historique de la 
langue francaise and the voluminous Tresor de la langue francaise), numerous 
errors no doubt remain. Lacan's incredibly broad background and in-depth 
knowledge of psychiatry, psychoanalysis, philosophy, mathematics, and lit- 
erature are such that I have surely misunderstood specialized terminology, 
overlooked references to specific authors, and just generally misinterpreted 
the French — Lord knows it's easy enough to do given Lacan's singular style! 
Readers who believe they have found mistakes of whatever kind are encour- 
aged to send comments to me via the publisher. I consider this translation a 
work in progress, and hope to improve on the texts here in future editions. A 
small number of typos found in the 2002 version of Ecrits: A Selection have 
been fixed here, and a few footnotes to the texts included in it have been cor- 
rected and several other footnotes have been added. 

Bruce Fink 

xiv Translator's Note 

Abbreviations Used in the Text 

GJV Gesammelte JVerke (Sigmund Freud) 

IJP International Journal of Psycho-Analysis 

IPA International Psycho- Analytical Association 

PQ Psychoanalytic Quarterly 

PUF Presses Universitaires de France 

RFP Revue Francaise de Psychanalyse 

SE Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud 


Overture to this Collection 

"The style is the man himself," people repeat without seeing any harm in 
it, and without worrying about the fact that man is no longer so sure a ref- 
erence point. Besides, the image of the cloth that adorned Buffon while 
he wrote is there to keep us inattentive. 

A re-edition of Voyage a Montbard (published posthumously in the 
year IX by the Sol vet press), penned by Herault de Sechelles — the title 
alters that of the edition published in 1 785, Visite a Buffon — gives us pause 
for thought. Not simply because one finds in it another style, which pre- 
figures the best of our buffoonish reporting, but because it resituates the 
saying itself in a context of impertinence in which the host is in no wise 
outdone by his guest. 

For the man discussed in the adage — which was already classic by that 
time [1785], having been extracted from Buffon's discourse to the Acad- 
emy — proves, in Sechelles' portrait, to be a fantasy of the great man, Buf- 
fon turning it into a scenario that involves his whole household. There is 
nothing natural here; Voltaire generalizes maliciously on this point, as we 

Shall we adopt the formulation — the style is the man — if we simply 
add to it: the man one addresses? 

This would be simply to comply with the principle I have proposed: 
that in language our message comes to us from the Other, and — to state 

4 Ecrits 

the rest of the principle — in an inverted form. (Let me remind you that 
this principle applied to its own enunciation since, although I proposed it, 
it received its finest formulation from another, an eminent interlocutor.) 

But if man were reduced to being nothing but the echoing locus of our 
discourse, wouldn't the question then come back to us, "What is the point 
of addressing our discourse to him?" 

That is the question posed to me by the new reader, this reader being 
the reason that has been put forward to convince me to publish a collec- 
tion of my writings. 

I am offering this reader an easy entryway into my style by opening 
this collection with "The Purloined Letter," even though that means tak- 
ing it out of chronological order. 
10 It will be up to this reader to give the letter in question, beyond those 

to whom it was one day addressed, the very thing he will find as its con- 
cluding word: its destination. Namely, Poe's message deciphered and 
returning from him, the reader, so that in reading this message he realizes 
that he is no more feigned than the truth is when it inhabits fiction. 

This "purloining of the letter" [vol de la lettre] will be said to be the 
parody of my discourse, whether one confines one 's attention to the ety- 
mology of "parody," which indicates an accompaniment and implies the 
precedence of the trajectory that is parodied, or, in returning to the usual 
meaning of the term, one sees the shadow of the intellectual master dis- 
pelled in it in order to obtain the effect that I prefer to it. 

The title of the poem "The Rape of the Lock" * [le vol de la boucle] is 
evoked here in which Pope, thanks to parody, ravishes — from the epic, in 
his case — the secret feature of its derisory stakes. 

Our task brings back this charming lock, in the topological sense of 
the term [boucle also means loop]: a knot whose trajectory closes on the 
basis of its inverted redoubling — namely, such as I have recently formu- 
lated it as sustaining the subject's structure. 

It is here that my students would be right to recognize the "already" 
for which they sometimes content themselves with less well-founded 

For I decipher here in Poe 's fiction, which is so powerful in the math- 
ematical sense of the term, the division in which the subject is verified in 
the fact that an object traverses him without them interpenetrating in any 
respect, this division being at the crux of what emerges at the end of this 
collection that goes by the name of object a (to be read: little a). 

It is the object that (cor) responds to the question about style that I am 

Overture to this Collection 

raising right at the outset. In the place man marked for Buffon, I call for 
the falling away [chute] of this object, which is revealing due to the fact 
that the fall isolates this object, both as the cause of desire in which the 
subject disappears and as sustaining the subject between truth and knowl- 
edge. With this itinerary, of which these writings are the milestones, and 
this style, which the audience to whom they were addressed required, I 
want to lead the reader to a consequence in which he must pay the price 
with elbow grease. 

October 1966 


Seminar on "The Purloined Letter" 

Und wenn es uns gliickt, 
Und wenn es sick schickt, 
So sind es Gedanken. 

My research has led me to the realization that repetition automatism (Wieder- 
holungs^wang) has its basis in what I have called the insistence of the signify- 
ing chain. I have isolated this notion as a correlate of the ex-sistence (that is, 
of the eccentric place) in which we must necessarily locate the subject of the 
unconscious, if we are to take Freud's discovery seriously. As we know, it is 
in the experience inaugurated by psychoanalysis that we can grasp by what 
oblique imaginary means the symbolic takes hold in even the deepest recesses 
of the human organism. 

The teaching of this seminar is designed to maintain that imaginary effects, 
far from representing the core of analytic experience, give us nothing of any 
consistency unless they are related to the symbolic chain that binds and orients 

I am, of course, aware of the importance of imaginary impregnations (Pra- 
gung) in the partializations of the symbolic alternative that give the signify- 
ing chain its appearance. Nevertheless, I posit that it is the law specific to this 
chain which governs the psychoanalytic effects that are determinant for the 
subject — effects such as foreclosure {Verwerfung), repression {Verdrangung), 
and negation {Verneinung) itself — and I add with the appropriate emphasis 
that these effects follow the displacement (Entstellung) of the signifier so faith- 
fully that imaginary factors, despite their inertia, figure only as shadows and 
reflections therein. 

But this emphasis would be lavished in vain if it merely served, in your 

Seminar on "The Purloined Letter" y 

view, to abstract a general form from phenomena whose particularity in ana- 
lytic experience would remain the core thing to you and whose original com- 
posite nature could be broken down only through artifice. 

This is why I have decided to illustrate for you today a truth which may be 12 

drawn from the moment in Freud's thought we have been studying — namely, 
that it is the symbolic order which is constitutive for the subject — by demon- 
strating in a story the major determination the subject receives from the itin- 
erary of a signifier. 

It is this truth, let us note, that makes the very existence of fiction possible. 
Thus a fable is as appropriate as any other story for shedding light on it — pro- 
vided we are willing to put the fable 's coherence to the test. With this proviso, 
a fable even has the advantage of manifesting symbolic necessity all more purely 
in that we might be inclined to believe it is governed by the arbitrary. 

This is why, without looking any further, I have taken my example from 
the very story in which we find the dialectic of the game of "even or odd," 
from which we very recently gleaned something of importance. It is proba- 
bly no accident that this story proved propitious for the continuation of a line 
of research which had already relied upon it. 

As you know, I am referring to the tale Baudelaire translated into French 
as "La lettre volee." In it we must immediately distinguish between a drama 
and its narration as well as the conditions of that narration. 

We quickly perceive, moreover, what makes these components necessary 
and realize that their composer could not have created them unintentionally. 

For the narration effectively doubles the drama with a commentary with- 
out which no mise-en-scene would be possible. Let us say that the action would 
remain, strictly speaking, invisible to the audience — aside from the fact that 
the dialogue would be expressly and by dramatic necessity devoid of what- 
ever meaning it might have for a listener. In other words, nothing of the drama 
could appear, either in the framing of the images or the sampling of the sounds, 
without the oblique light shed, so to speak, on each scene by the narration 
from the point of view that one of the actors had while playing his role in it. 

There are two such scenes, the first of which I shall immediately designate 
as the primal scene, and by no means inattentively, since the second may be 
considered its repetition in the sense of the latter term that I have been artic- 
ulating in this very seminar. 

The primal scene is thus performed, we are told, in the royal boudoir, such 13 

that we suspect that the "personage of most exalted station," also referred to 
as the "illustrious personage," who is alone there when she receives a letter, 
is the Queen. This sense is confirmed by the awkward situation she is put in 
"by the entrance of the other exalted personage," of whom we have already 

8 Ecrits 

been told prior to this account that, were he to come to know of the letter in 
question, it would jeopardize for the lady nothing less than her "honor and 
peace." Any doubt that he is in fact the King is promptly dissipated in the 
course of the scene which begins with the entrance of Minister D — . For at 
that moment the Queen can do no better than to take advantage of the King's 
inattentiveness by leaving the letter on the table turned face down, "address 
uppermost." This does not, however, escape the Minister's lynx eye, nor does 
he fail to notice the Queen's distress and thus to fathom her secret. From then 
on everything proceeds like clockwork. After dealing with the business of 
the day with his customary speed and intelligence, the Minister draws from 
his pocket a letter similar in appearance to the one before his eyes and, after 
pretending to read it, places it next to the other. A bit more conversation to 
pull the wool over the royal eyes, whereupon he picks up the embarrassing 
letter without flinching and decamps, while the Queen, on whom none of his 
maneuver has been lost, remains unable to intervene for fear of attracting the 
attention of her royal spouse, who is standing at her elbow at that very 

An ideal spectator might have noticed nothing of this operation in which 
no one batted an eye, and whose quotient is that the Minister has filched from 
the Queen her letter and, even more important, that the Queen knows that he 
now has it, and by no means innocently. 

A remainder that no analyst will neglect, trained as he is to remember every- 
thing having to do with the signif ier even if he does not always know what to 
do with it: the letter, left on hand by the Minister, which the Queen is now free 
to crumple up. 

Second scene: in the Minister's office at the Ministerial hotel. We know from 
the account the Prefect of Police has given Dupin, whose genius for solving 
enigmas Poe mentions here for the second time, that the police have searched 
the hotel and its surroundings from top to bottom for the last three months, 
returning there as often as the Minister's regular absences at night allow them 
14 to. In vain, however, although anyone can deduce from the situation that the 

Minister keeps the letter within easy reach. 

Dupin calls on the Minister. The latter greets him with a show of noncha- 
lance, affecting in his conversation romantic ennui. Meanwhile Dupin, who is 
not taken in by this feigning, inspects the premises, his eyes protected by green 
spectacles. When his gaze alights upon a very chafed letter — which seems to 
have been abandoned in a compartment of a wretched, eye-catching, 
trumpery card-rack of pasteboard, hanging right smack in the middle of the 
mantelpiece — he already knows that he has found what he was looking for. 

Seminar on "The Purloined Letter" ,9 

His conviction is reinforced by the very details which seem designed to con- 
tradict the description he has been given of the stolen letter, with the excep- 
tion of the size, which fits. 

Whereupon he has but to take his leave, after having "forgotten" his snuff- 
box on the table, in order to return the following day to reclaim it — armed 
with a facsimile of the letter in its present state. When an incident out in the 
street, prepared for the right moment, draws the Minister to the window, Dupin 
seizes the opportunity to snatch, in his turn, the letter while replacing it with 
an imitation [semblant\ and need but maintain the appearances of a normal 
exit thereafter. 

Here too all has transpired, if not without any sound, at least without any 
din. The quotient of the operation is that the Minister no longer has the let- 
ter, but he knows nothing of it and is far from suspecting that it is Dupin who 
ravished it from him. Moreover, what he is left with here is far from insignif- 
icant for what follows. I shall return later to what led Dupin to jot something 
down on his factitious letter. In any case, when the Minister tries to make use 
of it, he will be able to read the following words, whose source, Dupin tells 
us, is Crebillon's^rre'^ written so that he may recognize Dupin's hand: 

Un dessein sifuneste 

S'ilnest digne d'Atree, est digne de Thyeste. 

Need I emphasize the resemblance between these two actions? Yes, for the 
similarity I have in mind is not made up of the simple union of traits chosen 
only in order to prepare [appareiller] their difference. And it would not suf- 
fice to retain the traits of resemblance at the expense of the others for any truth 
whatsoever to result therefrom. It is, rather, the inter subjectivity by which the 
two actions are motivated that I wish to highlight, as well as the three terms 1 5 

with which that inter subjectivity structures them. 

These terms derive their privileged status from the fact that they corre- 
spond both to the three logical moments through which decision is precipi- 
tated and to the three places which this decision assigns to the subjects that it 
separates out. 

This decision is reached in the moment of a glance [regard]. 1 For the maneu- 
vers that follow, however stealthily that moment is prolonged in them, add 
nothing to it, no more than their deferral of the opportunity in the second scene 
disrupts the unity of that moment. 

This glance presupposes two others, which it assembles to provide a view 
of the opening left in their fallacious complementarity, anticipating there the 

io Ecrits 

plunder afforded by that uncovering. Thus three moments, ordering three 
glances, sustained by three subjects, incarnated in each case by different people. 

The first is based on a glance that sees nothing: the King and then the police. 

The second is based on a glance which sees that the first sees nothing and 
deceives itself into thereby believing to be covered what it hides: the Queen 
and then the Minister. 

The third is based on a glance which sees that the first two glances leave 
what must be hidden uncovered to whomever would seize it: the Minister and 
finally Dupin. 

In order to get you to grasp in its unity the inter subjective complex thus 
described, I would willingly seek patronage for it in the technique legendar- 
ily attributed to the ostrich [autruche] when it seeks shelter from danger. For 
this technique might finally be qualified as political, distributed as it is here 
among three partners, the second believing himself invisible because the first 
has his head stuck in the sand, all the while letting the third calmly pluck his 
rear. We need but enrich its proverbial denomination by a letter, producing la 
politique de Uautruiche, for this technique in itself to finally take on a new ever- 
lasting meaning. 

Having thus established the intersubjective module of the action that 
repeats, we must now indicate in it a repetition automatism in the sense that 
interests us in Freud's work. 
1 6 The fact that we have here a plurality of subjects can, of course, in no way 

constitute an objection to those who are long accustomed to the perspectives 
summarized by my formulation: the unconscious is the Other's discourse, I will 
not remind you now what the notion of the inmixing of subjects, recently intro- 
duced in my reanalysis of the dream of Irma's injection, adds here. 

What interests me today is the way in which the subjects, owing to their 
displacement, relay each other in the course of the intersubjective repetition. 

We shall see that their displacement is determined by the place that a pure 
signifier — the purloined letter — comes to occupy in their trio. This is what 
will confirm for us that it is repetition automatism. 

It does not, however, seem superfluous, before pursuing this line of inquiry, 
to ask whether the aim of the tale and the interest we take in it — inasmuch as 
they coincide — do not lie elsewhere. 

Can we consider the fact that the tale is told to us as a mystery story to be 
a simple "rationalization," as we say in our crude jargon? 

In truth, we would be justified in considering this to be highly dubious, 
noting as we do that everything about a crime or offense that creates such a 
mystery — its nature and motives, instruments and execution, the procedure 

Seminar on "The Purloined Letter" n 

used to discover its author, and the means employed to convict him for it — is 
carefully eliminated here at the beginning of each episode. 

Indeed, the act of deceit is as clearly known from the outset as the plotting 
of the culprit and its effects on his victim. The problem, as it is exposed to us, 
is limited to the search for the deceitfully acquired object, for the purposes of 
restitution; and it seems quite intentional that the solution is already known 
when it is explained to us. Is that how we are kept in suspense? However much 
credit we may give the conventions of a genre for arousing a specific interest 
in the reader, we should not forget that the "Dupin tale" — this being the sec- 
ond to come out — is a prototype, and that since it receives its genre only from 
the first, it is a little too early for the author to play on a convention. 

It would, however, be equally excessive to reduce the whole thing to a fable 1 7 

whose moral would be that, in order to shelter from inquisitive eyes corre- 
spondence whose secrecy is sometimes necessary to conjugal peace, it suffices 
to leave the letters lying around on one's table, even if one turns them signi- 
fying face down. For that would be a lure which, personally, I would never 
recommend anyone try, lest he be disappointed at having trusted in it. 

Is there then no other mystery here than incompetence resulting in failure 
on the part of the Prefect of Police? Is there not a certain discordance on 
Dupin's part, which we are loath to admit, between the assuredly penetrat- 
ing remarks (which are not, however, always absolutely relevant when gen- 
eralized) with which he introduces us to his method and the way in which he 
in fact intervenes? 

Were we to pursue a bit further our sense that we are being hoodwinked, 
we might soon begin to wonder whether — from the inaugural scene, which 
only the rank of the protagonists saves from degenerating into vaudeville, to 
the descent into ridicule that seems to await the Minister at the story's con- 
clusion — it is not, indeed, the fact that everyone is duped which gives us such 
pleasure here. 

I would be all the more inclined to think so in that, along with my readers, 
I would find anew here the definition I once gave, somewhere in passing, of 
the modern hero, "represented by ridiculous feats in situations of confusion." 2 

But are we ourselves not taken with the imposing bearing of the amateur 
detective, prototype of a new kind of braggart, as yet safe from the insipidity 
of our contemporary superman*? 

That was a joke, yet it makes us note, by way of contrast, so perfect a 
verisimilitude in this tale that it may be said that truth here reveals its fictional 

For this is certainly the pathway along which the reasons for this verisimil- 
itude lead us. Entering first into its procedure, we perceive, in effect, a new 

iz Ecrits 

drama that I would call complementary to the first, since the first was what is 

1 8 termed a silent drama whereas the interest of the second plays on the proper- 
ties of discourse. 3 

Indeed, while it is obvious that each of the two scenes of the real drama is 
narrated in the course of a different dialogue, one must be provided with cer- 
tain notions brought out in my teaching to realize that this is not done simply 
to make the exposition more pleasing, but that the dialogues themselves, in 
the opposite use they make of the virtues of speech, take on a tension that makes 
them into a different drama, one which my terminology will distinguish from 
the first as sustaining itself in the symbolic order. 

The first dialogue — between the Prefect of Police and Dupin — is played 
out as if it were between a deaf man and one who hears. That is, it represents 
the veritable complexity of what is ordinarily simplified, with the most con- 
fused of results, in the notion of communication. 

This example demonstrates how communication can give the impression, 
at which theorists too often stop, of conveying in its transmission but one mean- 
ing, as though the highly significant commentary into which he who hears 
integrates it could be considered neutralized because it is unperceived by he 
who does not hear. 

The fact remains that if we only retain the dialogue's meaning as a report, 
its verisimilitude appears to depend on a guarantee of accuracy. But the report 
then turns out to be more fruitful than it seems, provided we demonstrate its 
procedure, as we shall see by confining our attention to the recounting of the 
first scene. 

For the double and even triple subjective filter through which that scene 
comes to us — a narration by Dupin's close friend (whom I will refer to hence- 
forth as the story's general narrator) of the account by which the Prefect reveals 
to Dupin the version the Queen gave him of it — is not merely the consequence 
of a fortuitous arrangement. 

If, indeed, the extremity to which the original narrator is reduced precludes 

19 her altering any of the events, we would be wrong to believe that the Prefect 
is authorized to lend her his voice here only owing to the lack of imagination 
for which he holds, as it were, the patent. 

The fact that the message is retransmitted in this way assures us of some- 
thing that is absolutely not self-evident: that the message truly belongs to the 
dimension of language. 

Those who are here are familiar with my remarks on the subject, specifi- 
cally those illustrated by the counterexample of the supposed language of bees, 
in which a linguist 4 can see nothing more than a signaling of the location of 

Seminar on "The Purloined Letter" ij 

objects — in other words, an imaginary function that is simply more differen- 
tiated than the others. 

Let me emphasize here that such a form of communication is not absent 
in man, however evanescent the natural pregivenness [donne naturel\ of objects 
may be for him due to the disintegration they undergo through his use of 

Something equivalent may, in effect, be grasped in the communion estab- 
lished between two people in their hatred directed at a common object, with 
the proviso that this can never occur except in the case of one single object, 
an object defined by the characteristics of (the) being that each of the two 
refuses to accept. 

But such communication is not transmittable in symbolic form. It can only 
be sustained in relation to this object. This is why it can bring together an indef- 
inite number of subjects in a common "ideal"; the communication of one sub- 
ject with another within the group thus constituted will nonetheless remain 
irreducibly mediated by an ineffable relation. 

This excursion is not merely a reminder here of principles distantly 
addressed to those who tax me with neglecting nonverbal communication; in 
determining the scope of what discourse repeats, it prepares the question of 
what symptoms repeat. 

Thus the indirect relating [of the first scene] clarifies the dimension of lan- 
guage, and the general narrator, by redoubling it, "hypothetically" adds noth- 
ing to it. But this is not at all true of his role in the second dialogue. 

For the latter is opposed to the first like the poles in language that I have 20 

distinguished elsewhere and that are opposed to each other like word to speech. 

Which is to say that we shift here from the field of accuracy to the register 
of truth. Now this register — I dare think I need not go back over this — is situ- 
ated somewhere else altogether: at the very foundation of intersubjectivity. It is 
situated where the subject can grasp nothing but the very subjectivity that con- 
stitutes an Other as an absolute. I shall confine my attention, in order to indi- 
cate its place here, to evoking the dialogue which seems to me to warrant its 
attribution as a Jewish joke due to the nakedness with which the relation 
between the signifier and speech appears in the entreaty which brings it to a 
head: "Why are you lying to me?" one character exclaims exasperatedly, "Yes, 
why are you lying to me by saying you're going to Cracow in order to make me 
believe you're going to Lemberg, when in reality you are going to Cracow?" 

A similar question might be raised in our minds by the torrent of aporias, 
eristic enigmas, paradoxes, and even quips presented to us as an introduction 
to Dupin's method if the fact that they were confided to us by a would-be dis- 

14 Ecrits 

ciple did not add some virtue to them, owing to the act of delegation. Such is 
the unmistakable prestige of legacies: the witness' faithfulness is the wool pulled 
over the eyes of those who might criticize his testimony. 

What could be more convincing, moreover, than the gesture of turning 
one 's cards face up on the table? It is so convincing that we are momentarily 
persuaded that the prestidigitator has in fact demonstrated, as he promised he 
would, how his trick was performed, whereas he has only performed it anew 
in a purer form; this moment makes us appreciate the supremacy of the signi- 
fier in the subject. 

This is how Dupin operates when he starts with the story of the child prodigy 
who takes in all his classmates at the game of even or odd with his trick of 
identifying with his opponent, concerning which I have shown that he cannot 
reach the first level of its mental elaboration — namely, the notion of inter- 
subjective alternation — without immediately being tripped up by the stop of 
its recurrence. 5 

This does not stop us from being treated — in order to dazzle us — to the 
21 names of La Rochefoucauld, La Bruyere, Machiavelli, and Campanella, 

whose reputations now seem trivial compared to the child's prowess. 

And then to Chamfort, whose maxim that "the odds are that every idea 
embraced by the public, every accepted convention, is foolish, since it suits 
the greatest number" will indubitably satisfy all those who think they escape 
its law, that is, precisely, the greatest number. The fact that Dupin taxes the 
French with dishonesty when they apply the word "analysis" to algebra has 
little chance of threatening our pride when, moreover, the freeing of that term 
for other ends implies nothing that should stop a psychoanalyst from consid- 
ering himself in a position to assert his rights to it. And off he goes making 
philological remarks which should positively delight lovers of Latin; when he 
recalls without deigning to say any more about it that " 'ambitus [doesn't imply] 
'ambition,' 'religio 'religion,' 'homines honesti a set of honorable men," who 
among you would not take pleasure in remembering . . . what these words 
mean to assiduous readers of Cicero and Lucretius? No doubt Poe is having 
a good time . . . 

But a suspicion dawns on us: isn't this display of erudition designed to make 
us hear the magic words of our drama? 6 Isn't the prestidigitator repeating his 
trick before our eyes, without deluding us into thinking that he is divulging 
his secret to us this time, but taking his gamble even further by really shed- 
ding light on it for us without us seeing a thing? That would be the height of 
the illusionist's art: to have one of his fictional beings truly fool us. 

And isn't it such effects which justify our harmless way of referring to many 
imaginary heroes as real personages? 

Seminar on "The Purloined Letter" i5 

Thus, when we are open to hearing the way in which Martin Heidegger 
uncovers for us in the word alethes the play of truth, we merely rediscover a 
secret to which truth has always initiated her lovers, and through which they 
have learned that it is in hiding that she offers herself to them most truly. 

Thus, even if Dupin's comments did not defy us so blatantly to lend ere- 22 

dence to them [yfier], we would still have to make this attempt against the 
opposite temptation. 

Let us thus detect his track [depistons safoulee] where it throws us off track 
[depute]. 7 And first of all in the criticism by which he explains the Prefect's 
lack of success. We already saw it surface in those furtive gibes the Prefect, in 
the first conversation with Dupin, paid no mind, finding in them only a pre- 
text for hilarity. The fact that it is, as Dupin insinuates, because a problem is 
too simple, indeed too self-evident, that it may appear obscure, will never have 
any more impact on him than a somewhat vigorous rub of the ribcage. 

Everything is done to make us believe he is an imbecile. This is powerfully 
articulated in the claim that he and his henchmen will never conceive of any- 
thing beyond what an ordinary rascal might imagine for hiding an object — 
that is, precisely the all-too-well-known series of extraordinary hiding places, 
running the gamut from hidden desk drawers to removable tabletops, from the 
unstitched upholstery of chairs to their hollowed-out legs, and from the back 
side of the quicksilvering of mirrors to the thickness of book bindings. 

This gives way to making fun of the Prefect's error when he deduces that 
because the Minister is a poet, he is only one remove from a fool, an error, it 
is argued, that simply consists, although this is hardly negligible, in a non dis- 
tributio medii, since it is far from following from the fact that all fools are poets. 

Yes indeed. But we ourselves are left to err regarding what constitutes the 
poet's superiority in the art of concealment — even if he turns out to be a math- 
ematician to boot — since we suddenly lose whatever momentum we had when 
we are dragged into a thicket of unprovoked arguments directed against the 
reasoning of mathematicians, who have never, to my knowledge, showed such 
devotion to their formulas as to identify them with reasoning reason. At least, 
let me bear witness to the fact that, unlike what seems to be Poe 's experience, 23 

I occasionally hazard such serious mischief (virtual blasphemy, according to 
Poe) before my friend Riguet — whose presence here guarantees you that my 
incursions into combinatorial analysis do not lead us astray — as to question 
whether perhaps "x 2 +px is not altogether equal to ^," without ever (here I 
refute Poe) having to fend off any unexpected attack. 

Isn't so much intelligence being expended then simply to divert our atten- 
tion from what had been indicated earlier as given, namely, that the police have 
looked everywhere? We were to understand this — regarding the field in which 

i6 Ecrits 

the police, not without reason, assumed the letter must be found — in the sense 
of an exhaustion of space, which is no doubt theoretical but which we are 
expected to take literally if the story is to have its piquancy. The division of 
the entire surface into numbered "compartments," which was the principle 
governing the operation, is presented to us as so accurate that "the fiftieth part 
of a line," it is said, could not escape the probing of the investigators. Are we 
not then within our rights to ask how it happened that the letter was not found 
anywhere, or rather to observe that nothing we are told about a higher-caliber 
conception of concealment ultimately explains how the letter managed to 
escape detection, since the field exhaustively combed did in fact contain it, as 
Dupin's discovery eventually proved? 

Must the letter then, of all objects, have been endowed with the property 
of "nullibiety," to use a term which the well-known Roget's Thesaurus picks 
up from the semiological Utopia of Bishop Wilkins? 8 

It is evident ("a little too self-evident") 9 that the letter has, in effect, rela- 
tions with location [le lieu] for which no French word has the entire import of 
the English adjective "odd." Bizarre, by which Baudelaire regularly translates 
it into French, is only approximate. Let us say that these relations are singuliers 
(singular), for they are the very same ones that the signifier maintains with 
24 You realize that my intention is not to turn them into "subtle" relations, 

that my aim is not to confuse letter with spirit [esprit], even when we receive 
the former by pneumatic dispatch, and that I readily admit that one kills if the 
other gives life, insofar as the signifier — you are perhaps beginning to catch 
my drift — materializes the instance of death. But whereas it is first of all the 
materiality of the signifier that I have emphasized, that materiality is singular 
in many ways, the first of which is not to allow of partition. Cut a letter into 
small pieces, and it remains the letter that it is — and this in a completely dif- 
ferent sense than Gestalttheorie can account for with the latent vitalism in its 
notion of the whole. 10 

Language hands down its sentence to those who know how to hear it: 
through the use of the article employed as a partitive particle. Indeed, it is here 
that spirit — if spirit be living signification — seems, no less singularly, to allow 
for quantification more than the letter does. To begin with, through the very 
signification that allows us to say, "this discourse full 0/meaning" [plein de 
signification], just as it allows us to recognize some intentionality [de Vinten- 
tion] in an act, to deplore that there is no longer any love [plus A' amour], to 
store up hatred [de la haine] and expend devotion [du devouement], and to note 
that so much infatuation [tant d' 'infatuation] can be reconciled with the fact 

Seminar on "The Purloined Letter" ij 

that there will always be plenty of 'ass [de la cuisse] to go around and brawling 
among men [du rififi che\ les hommes]. 

But as for the letter itself, whether we take it in the sense of a typographi- 
cal element, of an epistle, or of what constitutes a man of letters, we commonly 
say that what people say must be understood a la lettre (to the letter or liter- 
ally), that a letter is being held for you at the post office, or even that you are 
well versed in letters — never that there is (some amount of) letter [de la let- 
tre] anywhere, whatever the context, even to designate late mail. 

For the signifier is a unique unit of being which, by its very nature, is the 
symbol of but an absence. This is why we cannot say of the purloined letter 
that, like other objects, it must be or not be somewhere but rather that, unlike 
them, it will be and will not be where it is wherever it goes. 

Let us, in fact, look more closely at what happens to the police. We are 
spared none of the details concerning the procedures used in searching the 
space subjected to their investigation: from the division of that space into vol- 25 

umes from which the slightest bulk cannot escape detection, to needles prob- 
ing soft cushions, and, given that they cannot simply sound the hard wood [for 
cavities], to an examination with a microscope to detect gimlet-dust from any 
holes drilled in it, and even the slightest gaping in the joints [of the furniture]. 
As their network tightens to the point that, not satisfied with shaking the pages 
of books, the police take to counting them, don't we see space itself shed its 
leaves like the letter? 

But the seekers have such an immutable notion of reality [reel] that they 
fail to notice that their search tends to transform it into its object — a trait by 
which they might be able to distinguish that object from all others. 

This would no doubt be too much to ask them, not because of their lack of 
insight but rather because of ours. For their imbecility is of neither the indi- 
vidual nor the corporate variety; its source is subjective. It is the imbecility of 
the realist who does not pause to observe that nothing, however deep into the 
bowels of the world a hand may shove it, will ever be hidden there, since another 
hand can retrieve it, and that what is hidden is never but what is not in its place 
[manque a sa place], as a call slip says of a volume mislaid in a library. And 
even if the book were on an adjacent shelf or in the next slot, it would be hid- 
den there, however visible it may seem there. For it can literally [a la lettre] be 
said that something is not in its place only of what can change places — that is, 
of the symbolic. For the real, whatever upheaval we subject it to, is always and 
in every case in its place; it carries its place stuck to the sole of its shoe, there 
being nothing that can exile it from it. 

Now, to return to our policemen, how could they have grasped the letter 

1 8 Ecrits 

when they took it from the place where it was hidden? What were they turn- 
ing over with their fingers but something that did not jit the description they 
had been given of it? "A letter, a litter": in Joyce's circle, they played on the 
homophony of the two words in English. 1 ] The seeming scrap of waste paper 
[de'chet] the police were handling at that moment did not reveal its other nature 

26 by being only half torn in two. A different cipher on a seal [cachet] of another 
color and the distinctive mark [cachet] of a different handwriting in the super- 
scription served as the most inviolable of hiding places [cachettes] here. And 
if they stopped at the reverse side of the letter, on which, as we know, the recip- 
ient's address was written at that time, it was because the letter had for them 
no other side but this reverse side. 

What might they have detected on the basis of its obverse? Its message, as 
it is often said, an answer pleasing to our amateur cybernetic streak? . . . But 
does it not occur to us that this message has already reached its addressee and 
has even been left behind along with the insignificant scrap of paper, which 
now represents it no less well than the original note? 

If we could say that a letter has fulfilled its destiny after having served its 
function, the ceremony of returning letters would be a less commonly 
accepted way to bring to a close the extinguishing of the fires of Cupid's fes- 
tivities. The signifier is not functional. And the mobilization of the elegant 
society, whose frolics we are following, would have no meaning if the letter 
limited itself to having but one. Announcing that meaning to a squad of cops 
would hardly be an adequate means of keeping it secret. 

We could even admit that the letter has an entirely different (if not a more 
consuming) meaning to the Queen than the one it offers up to the Minister's 
ken. The sequence of events would not be appreciably affected, not even if the 
letter were strictly incomprehensible to a reader not in the know. 

For the letter is certainly not incomprehensible to everybody, since, as the 
Prefect emphatically assures us, eliciting everyone 's mockery, "the disclosure 
of the document to a third person, who shall be nameless" (his name leaping 
to mind like a pig's tail twixt the teeth of Father Ubu) "would bring in ques- 
tion the honor of a personage of most exalted station" — indeed, the illustri- 
ous personage's very "honor and peace [would be] so jeopardized." 

Hence it would be dangerous to let circulate not only the meaning but also 
the text of the message, and it would be all the more dangerous the more harm- 
less it might appear to be, since the risks of an unwitting indiscretion by one 
of the letter's trustees would thus be increased. 

Nothing then can save the police 's position, and nothing would be changed 

27 by making them more "cultured." Scripta manent: in vain would they learn 
from a deluxe-edition humanism the proverbial lesson which the words verba 

Seminar on "The Purloined Letter" 19 

volant conclude. Would that it were the case that writings remain, as is true, 
rather, of spoken words [paroles]: for the indelible debt of those words at least 
enriches our acts with its transfers. 

Writings scatter to the four winds the blank checks of a mad charge of the 
cavalry. And were there no loose sheets, there would be no purloined letters. 

But what of it? For there to be purloined letters, we wonder, to whom does a 
letter belong? I stressed a moment ago the oddity implicit in returning a let- 
ter to the person who had formerly let ardently fly its pledge. And we gener- 
ally deem unworthy the method of such premature publications, as the one by 
which the Knight of Eon put several of his correspondents in a rather pitiful 

Might a letter to which the sender retains certain rights then not belong 
altogether to the person to whom it is addressed? Or might it be that the lat- 
ter was never the true addressee? 

What will enlighten us is what may at first obscure the matter — namely, 
the fact that the story tells us virtually nothing about the sender or about the 
contents of the letter. We are merely informed that the Minister immediately 
recognized the hand that wrote the Queen's address on it and it is only inci- 
dentally mentioned, in a discussion of the camouflaging of the letter by the 
Minister, that the original cipher is that of the Duke of S — . As for the letter's 
import, we know only the dangers it would bring with it were it to fall into 
the hands of a certain third party, and that its possession has allowed the Min- 
ister to wield, "for political purposes, to a very dangerous extent," the power 
it assures him over the person concerned. But this tells us nothing about the 
message it carries. 

Love letter or conspiratorial letter, informant's letter or directive, demand- 
ing letter or letter of distress, we can rest assured of but one thing: the Queen 
cannot let her lord and master know of it. 

Now these terms, far from allowing for the disparaging tone they have in 
bourgeois comedy, take on an eminent meaning since they designate her sov- 28 

ereign, to whom she is bound by pledge of loyalty, and doubly so, since her 
role as spouse does not relieve her of her duties as a subject, but rather ele- 
vates her to the role of guardian of the power that royalty by law incarnates, 
which is called legitimacy. 

Thus, whatever action the Queen has decided to take regarding the letter, 
the fact remains that this letter is the symbol of a pact and that, even if its 
addressee does not assume responsibility for this pact, the existence of the let- 
ter situates her in a symbolic chain foreign to the one which constitutes her 
loyalty. Its incompatibility with her loyalty is proven by the fact that posses- 

20 Ecrits 

sion of the letter is impossible to bring forward publicly as legitimate, and that 
in order to have this possession respected, the Queen can only invoke her right 
to privacy, whose privilege is based on the very honor that this possession 

For she who incarnates the graceful figure of sovereignty cannot welcome 
even a private communication without power being concerned, and she can- 
not lay claim to secrecy in relation to the sovereign without her actions becom- 
ing clandestine. 

Hence, the responsibility of the letter's author takes a back seat to that of 
its holder: for the offense to majesty is compounded by high treason. 

I say the "holder" and not the "owner." For it becomes clear thus that the 
addressee 's ownership of the letter is no less questionable than that of anyone 
else into whose hands it may fall, since nothing concerning the existence of 
the letter can fall back into place without the person whose prerogatives it 
infringes on having pronounced judgment on it. 

However, none of this implies that, even though the letter's secrecy is inde- 
fensible, it would in any way be honorable to denounce that secret. Honesti 
homines, decent people, cannot get off the hook so easily. There is more than 
one religio, and sacred ties shall not cease to pull us in opposite directions any 
time soon. As for ambitus, a detour, as we see, is not always inspired by ambi- 
tion. For although I am taking a detour here, I have not stolen [vole] it — that's 
the word for it — since, to be quite frank, I have adopted the title Baudelaire 
gave the story only in order to stress, not the signifier's "conventional" nature, 
29 as it is incorrectly put, but rather its priority over the signified. Despite his 

devotion, Baudelaire nevertheless betrayed Poe by translating his title "The 
Purloined Letter" as "La lettre volee" (the stolen letter), the English title con- 
taining a word rare enough for us to find it easier to define its etymology than 
its usage. 

To purloin, says the Oxford English Dictionary, is an Anglo-French 
word — that is, it is composed of the prefix pur-, found in purpose, purchase, 
and purport, and of the Old French word loing, loinger, longe. We recognize in 
the first element the Latin^ro-, as opposed to ante, insofar as it presupposes a 
back in front of which it stands, possibly to guarantee it or even to stand in as 
its guarantor (whereas ante goes forth to meet what comes to meet it). As for 
the second, the Old French word loigner is a verb that attributes place au loing 
(or longe), which does not mean au loin (far off), but au long de (alongside). 
To purloin is thus mettre de cote (to set aside) or, to resort to a colloquialism 
which plays off the two meanings, mettre a gauche (to put to the left side [lit- 
erally] and to tuck away). 

Our detour is thus validated by the very object which leads us into it: for 

Seminar on "The Purloined Letter" 21 

we are quite simply dealing with a letter which has been detoured, one whose 
trajectory has been prolonged (this is literally the English word in the title), or, 
to resort to the language of the post office, a letter en souffrance (awaiting deliv- 
ery or unclaimed). 

Here then, the letter's singularity, reduced to its simplest expression, is "sim- 
ple and odd," as we are told on the very first page of the story; and the letter 
is, as the title indicates, the true subject of the tale. Since it can be made to take 
a detour, it must have a trajectory which is proper to it — a feature in which its 
impact as a signifier is apparent here. For we have learned to conceive of the 
signifier as sustaining itself only in a displacement comparable to that found in 
electronic news strips or in the rotating memories of our machines-that-think- 
like-men, 12 this because of the alternating operation at its core that requires it 
to leave its place, if only to return to it by a circular path. 

This is what happens in repetition automatism. What Freud teaches us in the 30 

text I have been commenting on is that the subject follows the channels of 
the symbolic. But what is illustrated here is more gripping still: It is not only the 
subject, but the subjects, caught in their inter subjectivity, who line up — in other 
words, they are our ostriches, to whom we thus return here, and who, more 
docile than sheep, model their very being on the moment of the signifying 
chain that runs through them. 

If what Freud discovered, and rediscovers ever more abruptly, has a mean- 
ing, it is that the signifier's displacement determines subjects' acts, destiny, 
refusals, blindnesses, success, and fate, regardless of their innate gifts and 
instruction, and irregardless of their character or sex; and that everything per- 
taining to the psychological pregiven follows willy-nilly the signifier's train, 
like weapons and baggage. 

Here we are, in fact, once again at the crossroads at which we had left our 
drama and its round with the question of the way in which the subjects relay 
each other in it. My apologue is designed to show that it is the letter and its 
detour which governs their entrances and roles. While the letter may be en 
souffrance, they are the ones who shall suffer from it. By passing beneath its 
shadow, they become its reflection. By coming into the letter's possession — 
an admirably ambiguous bit of language — its meaning possesses them. 

This is what is demonstrated to us by the hero of the drama that is recounted 
to us here, when the very situation his daring triumphantly crafted the first time 
around repeats itself. If he now succumbs to it, it is because he has shifted to 
die second position in the triad where he was initially in the third position and 
was simultaneously the thief — this by virtue of the object of his theft. 

22 Ecrits 

For if, now as before, the point is to protect the letter from inquisitive eyes, 
he cannot help but employ the same technique he himself already foiled: that 
of leaving it out in the open. And we may legitimately doubt that he thus knows 
what he is doing when we see him suddenly captivated by a dyadic relation- 
ship, in which we find all the features of a mimetic lure or of an animal play- 
3 1 ing dead, and caught in the trap of the typically imaginary situation of seeing 

that he is not seen, leading him to misconstrue the real situation in which he 
is seen not seeing. And what does he fail to see? The very symbolic situation 
which he himself was so able to see, and in which he is now seen seeing him- 
self not being seen. 

The Minister acts like a man who realizes that the police 's search is his own 
defense, since we are told he deliberately gives the police total access to his 
hotel by his absences; he nevertheless overlooks the fact that he has no defense 
against anything beyond that form of search. 

This is the very autruicherie — if I may be allowed to multiply my monster 
by layering — he himself crafted, but it cannot be by some imbecility that he 
now comes to be its dupe. 

For in playing the game of the one who hides, he is obliged to don the role 
of the Queen, including even the attributes of woman and shadow, so propi- 
tious for the act of concealment. 

I do not mean to reduce the veteran couple of Yin and Yang to the primal 
opposition of dark and light. For its precise handling involves what is blind- 
ing in a flash of light, no less than the shimmering that shadows exploit in order 
not to release their prey. 

Here the sign and being, marvelously disjoint, reveal which wins out when 
they are opposed. A man who is man enough to brave, and even scorn, a 
woman's dreaded ire suffers the curse of the sign of which he has dispossessed 
her so greatly as to undergo metamorphosis. 

For this sign is clearly that of woman, because she brings out her very being 
therein by founding it outside the law, which ever contains her — due to the 
effect of origins — in a position as signifier, nay, as fetish. In order to be wor- 
thy of the power of this sign she need but remain immobile in its shadow, man- 
aging thereby, moreover, like the Queen, to simulate mastery of nonaction 
that the Minister's "lynx eye" alone was able to see through. 

The man is now thus in this ravished sign's possession, and this possession 
is harmful in that it can be maintained only thanks to the very honor it defies, 
and it is accursed for inciting him who maintains it to punishment or crime, 
both of which breach his vassalage to the Law. 

There must be a very odd noli me tangere in this sign for its possession to, 

Seminar on "The Purloined Letter" 23 

like the Socratic stingray, make its man so numb that he falls into what 32 

unequivocally appears in his case to be a state of inaction. 

For in remarking, as the narrator does already in the first meeting, that the 
letter's power departs when used, we perceive that this remark concerns only 
its use for ends of power — and simultaneously that the Minister will be forced 
to use it in this way. 

For him to be unable to rid himself of it, the Minister must not know what 
else to do with the letter. For this use places him in so total a dependence on the 
letter as such, that in the long run this use no longer concerns the letter at all. 

I mean that, for this use to truly concern the letter, the Minister — who, after 
all, would be authorized to do so by his service to the King, his master — could 
present respectful reproaches to the Queen, even if he had to ensure their 
desired effects by appropriate guarantees; or he could initiate a suit against the 
author of the letter (the fact that its author remains on the sidelines reveals the 
extent to which guilt and blame are not at stake here, but rather the sign of 
contradiction and scandal constituted by the letter, in the sense in which the 
Gospel says that the sign must come regardless of the misfortune of he who 
serves as its bearer); or he could even submit the letter as an exhibit in a case 
to the "third personage" who is qualified to decide whether he will institute a 
Chambre Ardente for the Queen or bring disgrace upon the Minister. 

We will not know why the Minister does not use the letter in any of these 
ways, and it is fitting that we do not, since the effect of this non-use alone con- 
cerns us; all we need to know is that the manner in which the letter was acquired 
would pose no obstacle to any of them. 

For it is clear that while the Minister will be forced to make use of the let- 
ter in a non-significant way, its use for ends of power can only be potential, 
since it cannot become actual [passer a I'acte] without immediately vanishing. 
Hence the letter exists as a means of power only through the final summons 
of the pure signifier — either by prolonging its detour, making it reach he whom 
it may concern through an extra transit (that is, through another betrayal whose 
repercussions the letter's gravity makes it difficult to prevent), or by destroy- 
ing the letter, which would be the only sure way, as Dupin proffers at the out- 3 3 
set, to be done with what is destined by nature to signify the canceling out 
[annulation] of what it signifies. 

The ascendancy which the Minister derives from the situation is thus not 
drawn from the letter but, whether he knows it or not, from the personage it 
constitutes for him. The Prefect's remarks thus present him as someone "who 
dares all things," which is commented upon significantly: "those unbecom- 
ing as well as those becoming a man," words whose thrust escapes Baudelaire 

24 Ecrits 

when he translates: "ce qui est indigne d'un homme aussi bien que ce qui est 
digne de lui" (those unbecoming a man as well as those becoming him). For 
in its original form, the appraisal is far more appropriate to what concerns a 

This allows us to see the imaginary import of the personage, that is, the 
narcissistic relationship in which the Minister is engaged, this time certainly 
without knowing it. It is also indicated right on the second page of the Eng- 
lish text by one of the narrator's remarks, whose form is worth savoring: the 
Minister's ascendancy, we are told, "would depend upon the robber's knowl- 
edge of the loser's knowledge of the robber." Words whose importance the 
author underscores by having Dupin repeat them word for word right after 
the Prefect's account of the scene of the theft of the letter, when the conver- 
sation resumes. Here again we might say that Baudelaire is imprecise in his 
language in having one ask and the other confirm in the following terms: "Le 
voleur sait-il? ..." (Does the robber know?), then: "Le voleur sait ..." (The 
robber knows). What? "que la personne volee connait son voleur" (that the 
loser knows her robber). 

For what matters to the robber is not only that the said person know who 
robbed her, but that she know what kind of robber she is dealing with; the fact 
is that she believes him capable of anything, which should be understood as 
follows: she confers upon him a position that no one can really assume, 
because it is imaginary, that of absolute master. 

In truth, it is a position of absolute weakness, but not for the person we lead 
to believe in it. The proof is not merely that the Queen takes the audacious 
step of calling upon the police. For the police merely conform to their dis- 
placement to the next slot in the array constituted by the initial triad, accept- 
ing the very blindness that is required to occupy that place: "No more 
34 sagacious agent could, I suppose," Dupin notes ironically, "be desired, or even 

imagined." No, if the Queen has taken this step, it is less because she has been 
"driven to despair," as we are told, than because she takes on the burden [charge] 
of an impatience that should rather be attributed to a specular mirage. 

For the Minister has a hard time confining himself to the inaction which is 
presently his lot. The Minister, in point of fact, is "not altogether a fool." This 
remark is made by the Prefect, whose every word is golden: it is true that the 
gold of his words flows only for Dupin and does not stop flowing until it reaches 
the fifty thousand francs' worth it will cost him by the metal standard of the 
day, though not without leaving him a tidy profit. The Minister then is not 
altogether a fool in his foolish stagnation, and this is why he must behave accord- 
ing to the mode of neurosis. Like the man who withdrew to an island to for- 
get — to forget what? he forgot — so the Minister, by not making use of the 

Seminar on "The Purloined Letter" z5 

letter, comes to forget it. This is expressed by the persistence of his conduct. 
But the letter, no more than the neurotic's unconscious, does not forget him. 
It forgets him so little that it transforms him more and more in the image of 
her who offered it up to his discovery, and that he now will surrender it, fol- 
lowing her example, to a similar discovery. 

The features of this transformation are noted, and in a form characteristic 
enough in their apparent gratuitousness that they might legitimately be com- 
pared to the return of the repressed. 

Thus we first learn that the Minister in turn has turned the letter over, not, 
of course, as in the Queen's hasty gesture, but more assiduously, as one turns 
a garment inside out. This is, in effect, how he must proceed, according to the 
methods of the day for folding and sealing a letter, in order to free the virgin 
space in which to write a new address. 13 

This address becomes his own. Whether it be in his handwriting or 35 

another's, it appears in a diminutive female script, and, the seal changing from 
the red of passion to the black of its mirrors, he stamps his own cipher upon 
it. The oddity of a letter marked with the cipher of its addressee is all the more 
worth noting as an invention because, although it is powerfully articulated in 
the text, it is not even mentioned thereafter by Dupin in the discussion he 
devotes to his identification of the letter. 

Whether this omission is intentional or involuntary, it is surprising in the 
organization of a creation whose meticulous rigor is evident. But in either case 
it is significant that the letter which the Minister addresses to himself, ulti- 
mately, is a letter from a woman: as though this were a phase he had to go 
through owing to one of the signifier's natural affinities. 

And everything — from the aura of nonchalance, that goes as far as an affec- 
tation of listlessness, to the display of an ennui verging on disgust in his con- 
versation, to the ambiance that the author of the "Philosophy of Furniture" 14 
knows how to elicit from virtually impalpable details (like that of the musical 
instrument on the table) — seems to conspire to make a personage, whose every 
remark has surrounded him with the most virile of traits, exude the oddest 
odor difemina when he appears. 

Dupin does not fail to emphasize that this is indeed an artifice, describing 
behind the spurious appearance the vigilance of a beast of prey ready to spring. 
But how could we find a more beautiful image of the fact that this is the very 
effect of the unconscious, in the precise sense in which I teach that the uncon- 
scious is the fact that man is inhabited by the signifier, than the one Poe him- 
self forges to help us understand Dupin 's feat? For, to do so, Poe refers to those 
toponymic inscriptions which a map, in order not to be silent, superimposes 
on its outline, and which may become the object of "a game of puzzles" in 

26 Ecrits 

which one has to find the name chosen by another player. He then notes that 
the name most likely to foil a novice will be one which the eye often overlooks, 
but which provides, in large letters spaced out widely across the field of the 
map, the name of an entire country . . . 
3 6 Just so does the purloined letter, like an immense female body, sprawl across 

the space of the Minister's office when Dupin enters it. But just so does he 
already expect to find it there, having only to undress that huge body, with his 
eyes veiled by green spectacles. 

This is why, without any need (nor any opportunity either, for obvious 
reasons) to listen in at Professor Freud's door, he goes straight to the spot 
where lies and lodges what that body is designed to hide, in some lovely mid- 
dle toward which one 's gaze slips, nay, to the very place seducers call San- 
t'Angelo's Castle in their innocent illusion of being able to control the City 
from the castle. Lo! Between the jambs of the fireplace, there is the object 
already in reach of the hand the ravisher has but to extend . . . Whether he 
seizes it above the mantelpiece, as Baudelaire translates it, or beneath it, as in 
the original text, is a question that may be abandoned without harm to infer- 
ences emanating from the kitchen. 15 

Now if the effectiveness of symbols stopped there, would it mean that the sym- 
bolic debt is extinguished there too? If we could believe so, we would be advised 
of the contrary by two episodes which we must be all the more careful not to 
dismiss as accessory in that they seem, at first blush, to be at odds with the rest 
of the work. 

First of all, there is the business of Dupin's remuneration, which, far from 
being one last game, has been present from the outset in the rather offhanded 
question Dupin asks the Prefect about the amount of the reward promised him, 
and whose enormousness the Prefect, however reticent he may be about cit- 
ing the exact figure, does not dream of hiding from him, even returning to the 
subject later in mentioning its having been doubled. 

The fact that Dupin was previously presented to us as a virtual pauper tak- 
ing refuge in ethereal pursuits ought rather to lead us to reflect on the deal 
he cuts for delivery of the letter, promptly assured as it is by the checkbook 
he produces. I do not regard it as negligible that the direct hint* by which he 
broaches the matter is a "story attributed to the personage, as famous as he 
was eccentric," Baudelaire tells us, of an English doctor named Abernethy; 
37 this doctor replied to a rich miser, who was hoping to sponge a free medical 

opinion off him, not to take medicine, but rather to take advice. 

Are we not, in fact, justified in feeling implicated when Dupin is perhaps 
about to withdraw from the letter's symbolic circuit — we who make ourselves 

Seminar on "The Purloined Letter" 27 

the emissaries of all the purloined letters which, at least for a while, remain en 
souffrance with us in the transference? And is it not the responsibility their 
transference entails that we neutralize by equating it with the signifier that 
most thoroughly annihilates every signification — namely, money? 

But that's not all here. The profit Dupin so blithely extracts from this feat, 
assuming its purpose is to allow him to withdraw his ante from the game before 
it is too late, merely renders all the more paradoxical, even shocking, the rebuke 
and underhanded blow he suddenly permits himself to deal the Minister, whose 
insolent prestige would, after all, seem to have been sufficiently deflated by 
the trick Dupin has just played on him. 

I have already quoted the atrocious lines Dupin claims he could not stop 
himself from dedicating, in his counterfeit letter, to the moment at which the 
Minister, flying off the handle at the Queen's inevitable acts of defiance, will 
think of bringing her down and will fling himself into the abyss — facilis descen- 
sus Averni J 6 he says, waxing sententious — adding that the Minister will not 
fail to recognize his handwriting. Leaving behind a merciless opprobrium, at 
the cost of no peril to himself, would seem to be a triumph without glory over 
a figure who is not without merit, and the resentment Dupin invokes, stem- 
ming from "an evil turn" done him in Vienna (at the Congress?), merely adds 
an extra touch of darkness to it. 

Let us consider this explosion of feeling more closely, however, and more 
specifically the moment at which it occurs in an act whose success depends on 
so cool a head. 

It comes just after the moment at which it may be said that Dupin already 
holds the letter as securely as if he had seized it, the decisive act of identify- 
ing the letter having been accomplished, even though he is not yet in a posi- 
tion to rid himself of it. 

He is thus clearly a participant in the inter subjective triad and, as such, finds 
himself in the median position previously occupied by the Queen and the Min- 
ister. In showing himself to be superior here, will he simultaneously reveal to 38 
us the author's intentions? 

While he has succeeded in putting the letter back on its proper course, it 
has yet to be made to reach its address. And that address is the place previ- 
ously occupied by the King, since it is there that it must fall back into the order 
based on the Law. 

As we have seen, neither the King nor the police who replaced Him in that 
position were capable of reading the letter because that/?/ace entailed blindness. 

Rex et augur — the legendary archaism of the words seems to resound only 
to make us realize how derisive it is to call upon a man to live up to them. And 
history's figures have hardly encouraged us to do so for some time now. It is 

28 Ecrits 

not natural for man to bear the weight of the highest of signifiers all alone. 
And the place he comes to occupy when he dons it may be equally apt to become 
the symbol of the most enormous imbecility. 17 

Let us say that the King here is invested — thanks to the amphibology nat- 
ural to the sacred — with the imbecility that is based precisely on the Subject. 

This is what will give meaning to the personages who succeed him in his 
place. Not that the police can be regarded as constitutionally illiterate, and we 
are aware of the role played by pikes planted around the university in the birth 
of the State. But the police who exercise their functions here are plainly marked 
by liberal forms, that is, by forms imposed on them by masters who are not 
very interested in enduring their indiscreet tendencies. This is why words are 
not minced, at times, regarding what is expected of them: "Sutorne ultra crep- 
idam, just take care of your crooks. We'll even give you the scientific means 
with which to do so. That will help you not to think of truths you'd be better 
off leaving in the dark." 18 

We know that the relief that results from such sensible principles shall have 
lasted but a morning's time in history, and that everywhere the march of des- 
39 tiny is already bringing back, after a just aspiration to the reign of freedom, an 

interest in those who trouble it with their crimes, an interest that occasionally 
goes so far as to forge its own evidence. It may even be observed that this prac- 
tice, which has always been accepted as long as it was engaged in only for the 
benefit of the greatest number, is in fact authenticated through public confes- 
sions of its forgeries by the very people who might well object to it: the most 
recent manifestation of the preeminence of the signifier over the subject. 

The fact remains that police files have always been treated with a certain 
reserve, a reserve which goes well beyond the circle of historians, for some 
odd reason. 

Dupin's intended delivery of the letter to the Prefect of Police will dimin- 
ish the magnitude of this evanescent credit. What now remains of the signi- 
fier when, having already been relieved of its message for the Queen, its text 
is invalidated as soon as it leaves the Minister's hands? 

The only thing left for it to do is to answer this very question: what remains 
of a signifier when it no longer has any signification? This is the very question 
asked of it by the person Dupin now finds in the place marked by blindness. 

For this is clearly the question that has led the Minister there, assuming he is 
the gambler we are told he is, as his act suffices to indicate. For the gambler's 
passion is no other than the question asked of the signifier, which is figured 
by the automaton of chance. 

"What are you, figure of the dice I roll in your chance encounter (tyche) 19 

Seminar on "The Purloined Letter" 29 

with my fortune? Nothing, if not the presence of death that makes human life 
into a reprieve obtained from morning to morning in the name of significa- 
tions of which your sign is the shepherd's crook. Thus did Scheherazade for 
a thousand and one nights, and thus have I done for eighteen months, experi- 
encing the ascendancy of this sign at the cost of a dizzying series of loaded 
tosses in the game of even or odd." 

This is why Dupin,yrom the place where he is [ilest], cannot help but feel rage 
of a manifestly feminine nature at he who questions in this manner. The high- 40 

caliber image, in which the poet's inventiveness and the mathematician's rigor 
were married to the impassivity of the dandy and the elegance of the cheat, 
suddenly becomes, for the very person who gave us a taste of it, the true mon- 
strum horrendum, to borrow his own words, "an unprincipled man of genius." 

It is here that the origin of the horror shows itself, and he who experiences 
it has no need to declare himself, most unexpectedly at that, "a partisan of 
the lady" in order to reveal it to us: ladies, as we know, detest it when prin- 
ciples are called into question, for their charms owe much to the mystery of 
the signifier. 

This is why Dupin will at last turn toward us the dumbfounding \medu- 
sante] face of this signifier of which no one but the Queen has been able to 
read anything but the other face. The commonplace practice of supplying a 
quotation is fitting for the oracle that this face bears in its grimace, as is the 
fact that it is borrowed from tragedy: 

Un destin sifuneste, 

S'ilnest digne d'Atree, est digne de Thyeste. 

Such is the signifier's answer, beyond all significations: "You believe you 
are taking action when I am the one making you stir at the bidding of the bonds 
with which I weave your desires. Thus do the latter grow in strength and mul- 
tiply in objects, bringing you back to the fragmentation of your rent child- 
hood. That will be your feast until the return of the stone guest whom I shall 
be for you since you call me forth." 

To return to a more temperate tone, let us say — as goes the joke with which 
some of you who followed me to the Congress in Zurich last year and I ren- 
dered homage to the local password — that the signifier's answer to whomever 
questions it is: "Eat your Dasein." 

Is that then what awaits the Minister at his appointment with fate? Dupin 
assures us that it is, but we have also learned not to be overly credulous of his 

The audacious creature is, of course, reduced here to the state of imbecilic 

30 Ecrits 

blindness in which man finds himself in relation to the wall-like letters that dic- 
tate his destiny. But, in summoning him to confront them, what effect can we 
expect the sole provocations of the Queen to have on a man like him? Love or 

41 hatred. The one is blind and will make him lay down his arms. The other is 
lucid, but will awaken his suspicions. But provided he is truly the gambler we 
are told he is, he will consult his cards one final time before laying them on the 
table and, upon seeing his hand, will leave the table in time to avoid disgrace. 

Is that all, and must we believe we have deciphered Dupin's true strategy 
beyond the imaginary tricks with which he was obliged to deceive us? Yes, no 
doubt, for if "any point requiring reflection," as Dupin states at the start, is 
examined "to better purpose in the dark," we may now easily read its solution 
in broad daylight. It was already contained in and easy to bring out of the title 
of our tale, according to the very formulation of intersubjective communica- 
tion that I have long since offered up to your discernment, in which the sender, 
as I tell you, receives from the receiver his own message in an inverted form. 
This is why what the "purloined letter," nay, the "letter en souffrance" means 
is that a letter always arrives at its destination. 

Guitrancourt and San Casciano, mid-May to mid-August 1956 

Presentation of the Suite 

To anyone wanting to get a feel for my seminar from this text, I hardly ever 
recommended it without advising him that this text had to serve to intro- 
duce him to the introduction that preceded it and that will follow it here. 

This introduction was designed for others who were leaving, having 
gotten a feel for my seminar. 

This advice usually was not followed, a taste for obstacles being the 
ornament of persevering in being. 

I am only concerning myself here with the reader's economy [of effort] 
to return to the topic of whom my discourse is addressed to and to indi- 
cate what can no longer be denied: my writings have their place within an 
adventure which is that of the psychoanalyst, assuming psychoanalysis goes 
so far as to call him into question. 

42 The detours of this adventure, and even its accidents, have led me to a 
teaching position. 

Whence an intimate reference which, by first looking over this intro- 
duction, will be grasped in the reminder of exercises done as a group. 

For the preceding text merely refines on the grace of one of those 

Seminar on "The Purloined Letter" ji 

One would thus make poor use of the introduction that follows were 
one to consider it difficult: That would be to transfer to the object that it 
presents what is related only to its aim, insofar as that aim is training. 

The four pages that are a conundrum here for certain people were thus 
not intended to be confusing. I have reworked them slightly to remove any 
pretext one might come up with for ignoring what they say. 

Which is that the remembering [melioration] at stake in the uncon- 
scious — and I mean the Freudian unconscious — is not related to the reg- 
ister that is assumed to be that of memory, insofar as memory is taken to 
be a property of a living being. 

To sharpen our focus on what this negative reference involves, I say that 
what has been imagined in order to account for this effect of living matter 
is not rendered any more acceptable to me by the resignation it suggests. 

Whereas it is quite obvious that, in doing without this subjection, we can 
find in the ordered chains of a formal language the entire appearance of 
remembering, and quite especially of the kind required by Freud's discovery. 

I will therefore go so far as to say that the burden of proof rests, rather, 
with those who argue that the constitutive order of the symbolic does not 
suffice to explain everything here. 

For the time being, the links of this order are the only ones that can be 
suspected to suffice to account for Freud's notion of the indestructibility of 
what his unconscious preserves. 

(I refer the reader to Freud's text on the Wunderblock which, on this 
point and many others as well, goes far beyond the trivial meaning attrib- 
uted to it by inattentive readers.) 

The program traced out for us is hence to figure out how a formal lan- 
guage determines the subject. 

But the interest of such a program is not simple, since it assumes that a 
subject will not fulfill it except by contributing something of his own to it. 

A psychoanalyst can but indicate his interest in it, which is precisely as 
great as the obstacle he finds in it. 

Those who share this interest agree and even the others would admit 43 

it, if they were appropriately questioned: we have here an aspect of sub- 
jective conversion that gave rise to a dramatic reaction in my companions, 
and the imputation of "intellectualization" expressed by others, with 
which they would like to thwart me, clearly shows what it protects when 
seen in this light. 

Probably no one made a more praiseworthy effort in these pages than 
someone close to me who, in the end, saw fit only to denounce in them the 
hypostasis that troubled his Kantianism. 

32 Ecrits 

But the Kantian brush itself needs its alkali. 

It is helpful here to introduce my objector, and even others who were 
less relevant, because of what they do each time — in explaining to them- 
selves their everyday subject, their patient, as they say, or even explaining 
themselves to him — they employ magical thinking. 

Let them enter through that door themselves; it is, in effect, the same 
step the first objector made to take from me the chalice of the hypostasis, 
whereas he had just filled the cup with his own hand. 

For, with my as, ps, ys, and 6s, I do not claim to extract from the real 
more than I have presupposed in its given — in other words, nothing here — 
but simply to demonstrate that they already bring with them a syntax by 
simply turning this real into chance [hasard]. 

Regarding which I propose that the effects of repetition that Freud calls 
"automatism" come from nowhere else. 

But, people object, my as, ps, ys, and 6s are not without a subject 
remembering them. This is precisely what I am calling into question here: 
what is repeated is a product, not of nothing from the real (which peo- 
ple believe they have to presuppose in it), but precisely oiwhat was not 
[ce qui n 'etaitpas] . 

Note that it then becomes less astonishing that what is repeated insists 
so much in order to get itself noticed. 

The least of my "patients" in analysis attests to this, and in words that 
confirm all the better my doctrine since they are the same words that led 
me to it — as those whom I train know, having often heard my very terms 
anticipated in the hot-off-the-presses text of an analytic session. 

Now, what I want to achieve is that the patient [malade] be heard in the 
proper manner at the moment at which he speaks. For it would be strange 
for one to listen only for the idea of what leads him astray at the moment 
at which he is simply prey to truth. 
44 This is helpful in taking the psychologist's assurance down a notch — 

in other words, the pedantry that invented the "level of aspiration," for 
example, expressly, no doubt, to indicate his own therein as an unsur- 
passable upper limit. 

It must not be thought that the philosopher with fine university creden- 
tials is the blackboard [planche] that can accommodate this divertissement. 

It is here that, by echoing old School debates, my discussion discovers 
the intellectual's debt, but it is also a question of the infatuation that must 
be removed. 

Caught in the act of unduly imputing to me a transgression of the Kant- 

Seminar on "The Purloined Letter" 33 

ian critique, the subject, who was well-meaning in mentioning my text, is 
not Father Ubu and does not persist. 

But he has little taste for adventure left. He wants to sit down. It is a 
corporal antinomy to the analyst's profession. How can one remain seated 
when one has placed oneself in the situation of no longer having to answer 
a subject's question in any way than by lying him down first? It is obvi- 
ous that remaining standing is no less uncomfortable. 

This is why the question of the transmission of psychoanalytic expe- 
rience begins here, when the didactic aim is implied in it, negotiating a 

The impact of a market structure is not null in the field of truth, but it 
is scabrous there. 


The class of my seminar that I have written up to present here was given on 
April 26, 1955. It represents a moment in the commentary that I devoted to 
Beyond the Pleasure Principle for the whole of that academic year. 

It is well known that many people who authorize themselves the title of 
psychoanalyst do not hesitate to reject this text by Freud as superfluous and 
even risky speculation, and we can gauge — on the basis of the antinomy par 
excellence constituted by the notion of the "death instinct" with which it con- 
cludes — to what extent it can be unthinkable, if you will allow me the term, 
to most of them. 

It is nevertheless difficult to consider this text — which serves as a prelude 45 

to the new topography represented by the terms "ego," "id," and "superego," 
which have become as prevalent in the work of theorists as in the popular 
mind — to be an excursion, much less a faux pas, in Freudian doctrine. 

This simple apprehension is confirmed when we fathom the motivations 
that link the abovementioned speculation with the theoretical revision of which 
it turns out to be constitutive. 

When we do so, we are left with no doubt but that the current use of these 
terms is bastardized and even ass-backwards; this can be clearly seen in the 
fact that the theorist and the man on the street use them identically. Which is, 
no doubt, what justifies the remark made by certain epigones to the effect that 
they find in these terms the means by which to bring the experience of psy- 
choanalysis back into the fold of what they call general psychology. 

Let me simply provide a few markers along our path. 

Repetition automatism (Wiederholungs^wang) — although the notion is 

34 Ecrits 

presented in the book in question here as designed to respond to certain para- 
doxes in clinical work, like the dreams found in traumatic neurosis and the 
negative therapeutic reaction — cannot be conceived of as an add-on to the 
doctrinal edifice, even if it is viewed as a crowning addition. 

For it is his inaugural discovery that Freud reaffirms in it: namely, the con- 
ception of memory implied by his "unconscious." The new facts provide him 
with an occasion to restructure that conception in a more rigorous manner by 
giving it a generalized form, but also to reopen his problematic to combat the 
decline, which one could sense already at that time, seen in the fact that peo- 
ple were taking its effects as a simple pregiven. 

What is revamped here was already articulated in the "Project," 20 in which 
Freud 's divination traced the avenues his research would force him to go down: 
the *P system, a predecessor of the unconscious, manifests its originality 
therein, in that it is unable to satisfy itself except by reminding an object that has 
been fundamentally lost. 
46 This is how Freud situates himself right from the outset in the opposition 

Kierkegaard taught us about, regarding whether the notion of existence is 
founded upon reminiscence or repetition. If Kierkegaard admirably discerns 
in that opposition the difference between Antiquity's conception of man and 
the modern conception of man, it appears that Freud makes the latter take its 
decisive step by ravishing the necessity included in this repetition from the 
human agent identified with consciousness. Since this repetition is symbolic 
repetition, it turns out that the symbol's order can no longer be conceived of 
there as constituted by man but must rather be conceived of as constituting him. 

This is why I felt obliged to give my audience practice in the notion of 
remembering implied by Freud's work: I did this due to the all-too-well- 
founded consideration that by leaving it implicit, the very basics of analysis 
remain fuzzy. 

It is because Freud does not compromise regarding the original quality of 
his experience that we see him constrained to evoke therein an element that 
governs it from beyond life — an element he calls the death instinct. 

The indication that Freud gives here to those who call themselves his fol- 
lowers can only scandalize people in whom the sleep of reason is sustained by 
the monsters it produces, to borrow Goya's pithy formulation. 

For, in order to remain at his usual level of rigor, Freud only delivers his 
notion to us accompanied by an example that dazzlingly exposes the funda- 
mental formalization which this notion designates. 

This game, in which the child practices making an object (which is, more- 
over, indifferent by its very nature) disappear from his sight, only to bring it 
back, and then obliterate it anew, while he modulates this alternation with dis- 

Seminar on "The Purloined Letter" jS 

tinctive syllables — this game, as I was saying, manifests in its radical traits the 
determination that the human animal receives from the symbolic order. 

Man literally devotes his time to deploying the structural alternative in 
which presence and absence each find their jumping-off point [prennent . . . 
leurappel]. It is at the moment of their essential conjunction and, so to speak, 
at the zero point of desire that the human object comes under the sway of the 
grip which, canceling out its natural property, submits it henceforth to the 
symbol's conditions. 

In fact, we have here nothing more than an illuminating insight into the 
entrance of the individual into an order whose mass supports him and welcomes 47 

him in the form of language, and superimposes determination by the signifier 
onto determination by the signified in both diachrony and synchrony. 

One can grasp in its very emergence the overdetermination that is the only 
kind of overdetermination at stake in Freud's apperception of the symbolic 

Simply connoting with (+) and (-) a series playing on the sole fundamen- 
tal alternative of presence and absence allows us to demonstrate how the 
strictest symbolic determinations accommodate a succession of [coin] tosses 
whose reality is strictly distributed "by chance" [au hasard\ 

Indeed, it suffices to symbolize, in the diachrony of such a series, groups of 
three which conclude with each toss 21 by defining them synchronically — for 

example, through the symmetry of constancy (+ + + and ), noted as 1, or 

of alternation (+ - + and - + -), noted as 3, the notation 2 being reserved for 
the dissymmetry revealed by the odd [impair] 22 in the form of a group of two 
similar signs either preceded or followed by the opposite sign (+ — , - + +, 

+ + -, and ) — for possibilities and impossibilities of succession to appear 

in the new series constituted by these notations that the following network sum- 
marizes. This network at the same time manifests the concentric symmetry 
implicit in the triad — which is, let it be noted, the very structure of concern in 
the question continually raised anew 23 by anthropologists whether the dualism 
found in symbolic organizations is of a fundamental or apparent character. 

Here is the network: 48 


36 Ecrits 

In the series of the symbols 1, 2, and 3, one can observe, for example, that 
for as long as a uniform succession of 2s, which began after a 1 , lasts, the series 
will remember the even or odd rank of each of these 2s, since this rank is respon- 
sible for the fact that this sequence can only be broken by a 1 after an even 
number of 2s or by a 3 after an odd number of 2s. 

Thus, right from the primordial symbol's first composition with itself — 
and I will indicate that I have not proposed this composition as I have arbi- 
trarily — a structure, as transparent as it may still remain to its givens, brings 
out the essential link between memory and law. 

But we will see simultaneously how the symbolic determination becomes 
more opaque, at the same time as the nature of the signifier is revealed, sim- 
ply by recombining the elements of our syntax, in skipping a term in order to 
apply a quadratic relation to this binary. 

Let us thus posit that if the binary, 1 and 3, in the group (12 3), for exam- 
ple, joins with their symbols a symmetry to a symmetry (1 — 1, 3 — 3, 1 — 3, 
or 3 — 1), it shall be noted a. A dissymmetry joined to a dissymmetry (2 — 2 
alone) shall be noted y. But, unlike our first symbolization, the crossed con- 
junctions will have two signs, |3 and 5, at their disposal, |3 noting the conjunc- 
tion of symmetry with dissymmetry (1 — 2 and 3 — 2), and 5 noting the 
conjunction of dissymmetry with symmetry (2 — 1 and 2 — 3). 
49 Note that, although this convention restores a strict equality of combina- 

torial chances among four symbols, a, (3, y, and 5 (as opposed to the combi- 
natorial ambiguity that equated the chance of the symbol 2 with the chances 
of the two other symbols [1 and 3] in the preceding convention), the new syn- 
tax, in governing the succession of as, (3s, ys, and 5s, determines absolutely 
dissymmetrical distribution possibilities between a and y, on the one hand, 
and |3 and 5, on the other. 

Indeed, recognizing that any one of these terms can immediately follow 
any of the others, and can also be found at Time 4 starting with any one of 
them [at Time 1], it turns out, on the other hand, that Time 3 — in other words, 
the constitutive time of the binary — is subject to a law of exclusion which is 
such that, starting with an a or a 5 [at Time 1], one can only obtain an a or a 
|3 [at Time 3], and that starting with a y or a |3 [at Time 1], one can only obtain 
a y or 5 [at Time 3]. This can be written in the following form: 


a, 6 o & a, B 

-^ ► a,p,Y,6 ► -^ 

Y» P Y> & 

Time 1 Time 2 Time 3 

Seminar on "The Purloined Letter" j7 

The symbols that are compatible from Time 1 to Time 3 line up here with each 
other in the different horizontal tiers that divide them in the distribution, 
whereas any one of them can be selected at Time 2. 

The fact that the link that has appeared here is nothing less than the sim- 
plest formalization of exchange is what confirms for us its anthropological 
interest. I will merely indicate at this level its constitutive value for a primor- 
dial subjectivity, the notion of which I will situate later. 

Given its orientation, this link is in fact reciprocal; in other words, it is not 
reversible but it is retroactive. Thus by determining which term is to appear 
at Time 4, the one at Time 2 will not be indifferent. 

It can be demonstrated that by setting the first and fourth terms of a series, 
there will always be a letter whose possibility will be excluded from the two 
intermediary terms, and that there are two other letters, one of which will 
always be excluded from the first of these intermediary terms, the other from 50 

the second. These letters are distributed in Tables Q and O below. 24 

table Q 


In these tables, the first line allows us to situate between the two tables the 
combination sought out from Time 1 to Time 4, the letter in the second line 
being the letter that this combination excludes from the two times in their 
interval [Times 2 and 3]; the two letters in the third line are, from left to right, 
those which are excluded from Time 2 and Time 3, respectively. 

This could illustrate a rudimentary subjective trajectory, by showing that 
it is grounded in the actuality which has the future anterior in its present. The 
fact that, in the interval of this past that it is already insofar as it projects, a 

38 Ecrits 

hole opens up that is constituted by a certain caput mortuum of the signifier 
(which is set here at three-quarters of the possible combinations in which it 
must situate itself), 25 suffices to make it depend on absence, obliging it to 
repeat its contour. 

At the outset, subjectivity has no relation to the real, but rather to a syntax 
which is engendered by the signifying mark there. 

The construction of the network of as, |3s, ys, and 5s has the property (or 
insufficiency) of suggesting how the real, the imaginary, and the symbolic form 
in three tiers, although only the symbolic can intrinsically play there as rep- 
resenting the first two strata. 

It is by meditating as it were naively on the small number of steps required 
5 1 for syntax to triumph that it is worthwhile taking the time to explore the chain 

ordered here along the same lines as the chain that interested Poincare and 

Thus we notice that if, in our chain, one can encounter two (3s that follow 
each other without the interposition of a 5, it is always either directly (|3|3) or 
after the interposition of an indeterminate number of ay couples (for exam- 
ple, (3aya . . . y (3), but that after the second |3, no new |3 can appear in the chain 
before the appearance of a 5. Nevertheless, the above-defined succession of 
two (3s cannot recur without a second 5 being added to the first in a link [liai- 
son] equivalent (apart from a reversal of the ay couple into ya) to the link 
imposed on the two (3s — namely, without the interposition of a (3. 

The immediate consequence of which is the dissymmetry that I announced 
earlier in probability of appearance for the different symbols of the chain. 

Whereas the as and ys can, in fact, through a felicitous random [du hasard] 
series, each repeat separately so as to overrun the entire chain, it is impossi- 
ble for (3 and 5, even with the most favorable luck, to increase their percent- 
age if not in strictly equal proportions (within one term), which limits to 50% 
the maximum possible frequency of each of them. 

The probability of the combination represented by the (3s and the 5s being 
equivalent to that presupposed by the as and the ys — and the real outcome of 
the tosses being, moreover, left strictly to chance — we see separate out from 
the real a symbolic determination which, as faithful as it may be in recording 
any partiality of the real, merely produces all the more clearly the disparities 
that it brings with it. 

This disparity can also be seen by simply considering the structural con- 
trast between Tables Q and O, that is, the direct or crossed way in which the 
grouping (and order) of the exclusions is subordinated by reproducing it in 
the order of the extremes, depending on the table to which the latter belongs. 

This is why, in the series of four letters, the two intermediary and extreme 

Seminar on "The Purloined Letter" 39 

couples can be identical if the latter is written in the order provided in Table 
(such as aaaa, aapp, PpYY? PP&5, YYYY> YY&&, 85aa, and 55pp, which are 
possible); they cannot be identical if the latter are written in the order of 
Table Q (pppp, |3|3cxcx, YYPP? YY aa > $$$$> 55yy, aa85, and cxcxyy, which are 

Remarks whose recreational character must not lead us astray. 52 

For there is no other link [lien] than that of this symbolic determination in 
which the signifying overdetermination, the notion of which Freud brings us, 
can be situated, and which was never able to be conceived of as a real over- 
determination by a mind like his — everything contradicting the idea that he 
abandoned himself to this conceptual aberration in which philosophers and 
physicians find it all too easy to calm their religious excitations. 

This position regarding the autonomy of the symbolic is the only position 
that allows us to clarify the theory and practice of free association in psycho- 
analysis. For relating its mainspring to symbolic determination and to its 
laws is altogether different from relating it to the scholastic presuppositions 
of an imaginary inertia that prop it up in associationism, whether philosoph- 
ical or pseudophilosophical, before claiming to be experimental. Having 
abandoned its examination, psychoanalysts find here yet another jumping- 
off point for the psychologizing confusion into which they constantly fall, 
some of them deliberately. 

In fact, only examples of preservation (whose suspension is indefinite) based 
on the exigencies of the symbolic chain, such as the examples that I have just 
provided, allow us to conceptualize where the indestructible persistence of 
unconscious desire is situated, that persistence, however paradoxical it may 
seem in Freud's doctrine, nevertheless being one of the features of it that is 
the most strongly asserted by Freud. 

This characteristic is, in any case, incommensurate with certain effects rec- 
ognized in authentically experimental psychology and which, regardless of 
the delays or time lags to which they are subject, eventually weaken and die 
out like every vital response. 

This is precisely the question to which Freud returns once again in Beyond 
the Pleasure Principle, in order to indicate that the insistence which I take to be 
the essential characteristic of the phenomena of repetition automatism, seems 
to him to be explainable only by something prevital and transbiological. This 
conclusion may be surprising, but it is Freud's, speaking about what he was 
the first to have spoken about. And one must be deaf not to hear it. Coming 
from his pen, as it does, it will not be thought to involve recourse to spiritu- 
alism: for it is the structure of determination that is in question here. The mat- 
ter that it displaces in its effects extends far beyond the matter of cerebral 53 

40 Ecrits 

organization, to the vicissitudes of which certain among them are entrusted, 
but others remain no less active and structured as symbolic even though they 
are materialized differently. 

Thus, if man comes to think about the symbolic order, it is because he is 
first caught in it in his being. The illusion that he has formed this order through 
his consciousness stems from the fact that it is through the pathway of a spe- 
cific gap in his imaginary relationship with his semblable that he has been able 
to enter into this order as a subject. But he has only been able to make this 
entrance by passing through the radical defile of speech, a genetic moment of 
which we have seen in a child 's game, but which, in its complete form, is repro- 
duced each time the subject addresses the Other as absolute, that is, as the Other 
who can annul him himself, just as he can act accordingly with the Other, that 
is, by making himself into an object in order to deceive the Other. This dialec- 
tic of inter subjectivity, the necessary usage of which I have demonstrated in 
the course of the past three years of my seminar at Saint Anne Hospital, from 
the theory of transference to the structure of paranoia, readily finds support 
in the following schema: 


(Es) S • -■ -% ©' other 

(ego) a Q + O ® Other 

This schema is by now familiar to my students. The two middle terms here [a 
and a'] represent the couple involved in reciprocal imaginary objectification 
that I have brought out in "The Mirror Stage." 

The specular relationship with the other — by which I at first wanted, in 
fact, to return the theory of narcissism, so crucial to Freud's work, to its dom- 
inant position in the function of the ego — can only reduce to its effective sub- 
ordination the whole fantasmatization brought to light by analytic experience 
by interposing itself, as the schema expresses it, between this shy of [en-dega\ 
54 the Subject and this beyond [au-deld] of the Other, where speech in effect inserts 

it, insofar as the existences that are grounded in speech are entirely at the mercy 
of its faith [foi]. 

It is by having confused these two couples that the legatees of a praxis and 

Seminar on "The Purloined Letter" 41 

a teaching that as decisively settled the question as Freud 's did regarding the 
fundamentally narcissistic nature of all being in love ( Verliebtheii) were able 
to so utterly deify the chimera of so-called genital love as to attribute to it the 
virtue of "oblativity," a notion that gave rise to so many therapeutic mistakes. 

But by simply eliminating any and all reference to the symbolic poles of 
intersubjectivity in order to reduce analytic treatment to a Utopian rectifica- 
tion of the imaginary couple, we have now arrived at a form of practice in 
which, under the banner of "object relations," what any man of good faith can 
only react to with a feeling of abjection is consummated. 

This is what justifies the true gymnastics of the inter subjective register con- 
stituted by some of the exercises over which my seminar may have seemed to 

The similarity between the relationship among the terms of the L schema 
and the relationship that unites the four times distinguished above (in the ori- 
ented series in which we see the first finished form of a symbolic chain) can- 
not fail to strike one as soon as one considers the connection between them. 

Parenthesis of Parentheses (Added in 1966) 

I will express here my perplexity at the fact that none of the people who 
took it upon themselves to decipher the ordering to which my chain lent 
itself, thought of writing in the form of parentheses the structure thereof 
that I had nevertheless clearly enunciated. 

A parenthesis enclosing one or several other parentheses — that is, (( )) 
or (()()... ( )) — is equivalent to the above-analyzed distribution of Ps 
and 6s, in which it is easy to see that the redoubled parenthesis is funda- 

I will call the latter "quotes." 

I intend to use this redoubled parenthesis to cover the structure of the 
subject (that is, the S in my L schema), insofar as it implies a redoubling, 5 5 

or rather the sort of division that involves a lining [doublure] function. 

I have already placed in this lining the direct or inverse alternation of 
ayay . . . pairs, on the condition that the number of signs be even or zero. 

Between the inside parentheses, an alternation of yaya . . . y signs, the 
number of signs being zero or odd. 

On the other hand, inside the parentheses, as many ys as one would 
like, starting with zero. 

Outside of the quotes we find, on the contrary, any series of as, which 
includes none, one, or several parentheses stuffed with ayay ... a signs, 
the number of signs being zero or odd. 

42 Ecrits 

If we replace the as and the ys by Is and Os, we can write the so-called 
L chain in a form that seems to me to be more "telling" [parlante]. 

L Chain: (10. .. (00. . .0) 0101. ..0 (00. ..0).. .01) 11111... (1010. ..1) 
111... etc. 

"Telling" in the sense that a reading of it will be facilitated at the cost 
of a supplementary convention which accords it with the L schema. 

This convention is to give the 0s between parentheses the value of 
moments of silence, a value of scansion being left to the 0s in the alterna- 
tions, a convention justified by the fact that they are not homogeneous, 
as we shall see below. 

What is inside the quotes can then represent the structure of the S (Es) 
in my L schema, symbolizing the subject supposedly completed by the 
Freudian Es, the subject of the psychoanalytic session, for example. The 
Es then appears there in the form given to it by Freud, insofar as he dis- 
tinguishes it from the unconscious — namely, as logistically disjoint and 
subjectively silent (the silence of the drives). 

It is then the alternation of the 01s that represents the imaginary grill 
(aa') of the L schema. 

It remains for me to define the privilege of the alternation character- 
istic of the between-two of the quotes (01 pairs) — that is, obviously, of 
the status of a and a' in themselves. 26 

What is outside of the quotes will represent the field of the Other (A 
in the L schema). Repetition dominates there in the form of the 1 , the unary 
5 6 trait, representing (as a complement to the preceding convention) the times 

marked by the symbolic as such. 

The subject S receives his message in an inverted form from there as 
well (interpretation). 

Isolated from this chain, the parenthesis including (10 ... 01) repre- 
sents the ego of the psychological cogito — that is, of the false cogito — which 
can just as well prop up perversion pure and simple. 27 

The only remainder required by this attempt is the formalism of a cer- 
tain remembering [memoration] related to the symbolic chain, whose law 
one could easily formulate with respect to the L chain. 

(This law is essentially defined by the relay constituted, in the alter- 
nation of 0s and Is, by the surmounting [franckissement] of one or several 
parenthetical signs and of which signs.) 

What must be kept in mind here is the rapidity with which a formal- 
ization is obtained that is suggestive both of a remembering that is pri- 
mordial in the subject and of a structuration in which it is notable that 

Seminar on "The Purloined Letter" 43 

stable disparities can be distinguished therein (indeed, the same dissym- 
metrical structure persists if, for example, we reverse all the quotes). 28 

This is but an exercise, but it fulfills my intent to inscribe therein the 
sort of contour where what I have called the signifier's caput mortuum takes 
on its causal aspect. 

This effect is as manifest when grasped here as in the fiction of "The 
Purloined Letter." 

The essence of the latter is that the letter was able to have its effects on 57 

the inside — on the tale's actors, including the narrator — just as much as 
on the outside — on us, its readers, and also on its author — without any- 
one ever having had to worry about what it meant. This is the usual fate 
of everything that is written. 

But at present we are only at the point of erecting an arch on which a bridge 
will be built in years to come. 29 

This is why, in order to demonstrate to my audience what distinguishes 
true intersubjectivity from the dyadic relationship implied by the notion of 
"projection," I had already used the reasoning approvingly recounted by Poe 
himself in the story that will be the subject of the present seminar, as the rea- 
soning that guided a supposedly prodigal child in helping him win more often 
than he should have otherwise in the game of even or odd. 

In following this reasoning — which is childish, that's the word for it, but 58 

which still manages to seduce certain people in other locales — we must grasp 
the point at which the lure therein appears. 

Here the subject is the one who is questioned: he has to guess whether the 
number of objects that his opponent hides in his hand is even or odd. 

After a round won or lost by me, the boy essentially tells us, I know that if 
my opponent is a simpleton, "his amount of cunning" will not exceed the 
change from even to odd, but if he is "a simpleton a degree above the first," 
it will cross his mind that I will think of that myself and hence that it makes 
sense for him to play even again. 

The child thus relied upon the objectification of the higher or lower num- 
ber of his opponent's cerebral folds in order to achieve his success. A point of 
view whose link with imaginary identification is immediately indicated by the 
fact that it is through an internal imitation of his opponent 's attitudes and mim- 
icry that he claims to arrive at the proper assessment of his object. 

But what then of the next level, when my opponent, having recognized that 
I am intelligent enough to follow him in this move, will manifest his own intel- 
ligence in realizing that it is by acting like an idiot that he has his best chance 

44 Ecrits 

of deceiving me? There is no other valid time of the reasoning in this moment, 
precisely because it can but repeat thereafter in an indefinite oscillation. 

And apart from the case of pure imbecility, in which the reasoning seemed 
to be objectively grounded, the child cannot but think that his opponent will 
arrive at the obstacle of this third time since he granted him the second, by 
which he himself is considered by his opponent to be a subject who objecti- 
fies him, for it is true that he may he this subject; hence we see him caught with 
him in the impasse implied by every purely dyadic intersubjectivity, which is 
that of having no recourse against an absolute Other. 

Let us note in passing the vanishing role played by intelligence in the con- 
stitution of the second time in which the dialectic detaches itself from the con- 
tingencies of the pregiven; let us note, too, that I need but impute intelligence 
to my opponent for its function to be useless since, from that point on, it col- 
lapses back into these contingencies. 
59 I will not say, however, that the path of imaginary identification with the 

opponent at the instant of each of these rounds is a path that is sealed off in 
advance; I will say that it excludes the properly symbolic process which 
appears as soon as this identification occurs, not with the opponent, but with 
his reasoning as articulated by this identification (this difference is, moreover, 
enunciated in Poe 's text). The fact proves, moreover, that such a purely imag- 
inary identification generally fails. 

Hence each player, if he reasons, can only resort to something beyond the 
dyadic relationship — in other words, to some law which presides over the suc- 
cession of the rounds of the game. 

This is so true that if I am the one who selects the number to be guessed — 
that is, if I am the active subject — I will at each instant attempt to convince 
my opponent that there is a law which presides over a certain regularity in my 
selection, in order to pull the ground of his understanding out from under him 
as often as possible by breaking that law. 

The more this approach manages to free itself from real regularities that 
are sketched out in spite of myself, the more successful it will effectively be, 
which is why someone who participated in one of the trials of this game that 
I did not hesitate to turn into in-class exercises, admitted that, at a moment at 
which he had the feeling, whether justified or not, of being too often found 
out, he freed himself from it by basing himself on the conventionally trans- 
posed succession of letters in a verse by Mallarme for the series of rounds that 
he thereafter proposed to his opponent. 

But had the game lasted as long as the entire poem and if, by some mira- 
cle, the opponent had been able to recognize it, the latter would then have won 
every round. 

Seminar on "The Purloined Letter" 45 

This is what allowed me to say that if the unconscious exists, in Freud's 
sense of the term — I mean if we understand the implications of the lesson that 
he draws from the experiences of the psychopathology of everyday life, for 
example — it is not unthinkable that a modern calculating machine, by detect- 
ing the sentence that, unbeknown to him and in the long term, modulates a 
subject's choices, could manage to win beyond any usual proportions in the 
game of even and odd. 

This is a pure paradox, no doubt, but in it is expressed the fact that it is not 
because it lacks the supposed virtue of human consciousness that we refuse to 
call the machine to which we would attribute such fabulous performances a 
"thinking machine," but simply because it would think no more than the ordi- 60 

nary man does, without that making him any less prey to the summonses 
[appels] of the signifier. 

Thus the possibility suggested here was of interest insofar as it conveyed 
to me the effect of distress and even anxiety that certain participants felt and 
were willing to share with me. 

A reaction about which one can wax ironic, coming as it does from ana- 
lysts whose entire technique relies upon the unconscious determination that 
is granted in that technique to so-called free association, and who can find 
clearly spelled out in the text by Freud that I just mentioned that a number is 
never chosen at random. 

But it is a legitimate reaction if one considers that nothing has taught them 
to leave behind everyday opinion by distinguishing what it neglects: namely, 
the nature of Freudian overdetermination — in other words, the nature of 
symbolic determination such as I promote it here. 

If this overdetermination had to be considered real — as my example sug- 
gested to them, because, like everyone else, they confused the machine 's cal- 
culations with its mechanism 30 — then, indeed, their anxiety would be 
justified, for in a gesture more sinister than that of touching the ax, I would 
be the one who brings it down on "the laws of chance." Being good deter- 
minists, those who found this gesture so moving rightly felt that if we 
changed these laws, there would no longer be any conceivable law at all. 

But these laws are precisely those of symbolic determination. For it is clear 
that they predate any real observation of randomness \hasard\ as is clear from 
the fact that we judge whether an object is apt or not to be used to obtain a 
series (always symbolic, in this case) of random throws according to its obe- 
dience to these laws — for example, whether or not a coin, or this object 
admirably known as a "die" \de\ qualifies for this function. 

Once this practical training was over, I had to illustrate in a concrete man- 61 

ner the dominance that I assert the signifier has over the subject. If it is a truth, 

46 Ecrits 

then it can be found everywhere, and we should be able to start with anything 
within range of our tap and make it flow like wine in Auerbach's tavern. 

This is why I took the very tale from which I had extracted the dubious 
reasoning about the game of even or odd, without seeing anything more in 
that tale at first. I found something useful in it that my notion of symbolic 
determination would have already prohibited me from considering to be sim- 
ply accidental \hasard\ even if it had not turned out, in the course of my exam- 
ination, that Poe — as a fine precursor of research into combinatorial strategy 
which is in the process of revamping the order of the sciences — had been 
guided in his fiction by the same aim [dessein] as mine. At least I can say that 
what I brought out in my expose of it touched my audience enough for it to 
be at their request that I am publishing a version of it here. 

In reworking it in accordance with the requirements of writing [lecrit], which 
are different from those of speech, I could not help but present the further 
development I have provided since that time of certain notions it introduced. 

This is why the emphasis, with which I have increasingly promoted the 
notion of signifier in the symbol, occurred retroactively here. To obscure its 
traits through a sort of historical feint would have seemed, I believe, artificial 
to my students. I can only hope that the fact that I spared myself this task will 
not disappoint their memory of it. 


1 . The necessary reference here may be story, if the structure did not suffice, although 
found in my essay, "Logical Time and the it aspires to do so. 

Assertion of Anticipated Certainty," in Ecrits I am eliminating that indication, which was 

1 966, 1 97—2 1 3. overly imperfect, because in rereading my text 

2. See "The Function and Field of Speech for this reprinting someone has confirmed to 
and Language in Psychoanalysis," in Ecrits me that, after the era of those who are selling 
1 966, 244. me out (even today, December 9, 1 968), another 

3. To completely understand what follows era is coming in which people read my work 
one must reread the short and readily avail- to explicate it further. 

able text of "The Purloined Letter." The latter shall take place elsewhere than 

4. See Emile Benveniste, "Communication on this page. 

animale et langage humain," Diogene I, and 7. 1 would like to pose again to Benveniste 

my Rome Report ["The Function and Field of the question of the antithetical meaning of 

Speech and Language"], Ecrits 1966, 297. [In certain words, whether primal or not, after the 

English, see Emile Benveniste, Problems in Gen- masterful correction he made to the erroneous 

eral Linguistics, trans. M. Meek (Coral Gables: path Freud took in studying the question on 

University of Miami Press, 1971), 49— 54.] philological ground (see La Psychanalyse 1 

5. See Ecrits 1966, 58. [1956]: 5-16). For I think that the question 

6. [Added in 1968:] I had at first added a remains unanswered once the instance of the 
note on the meaning these three [Latin] words signifier has been rigorously formulated, 
would provide by way of commentary on this Bloch and Von Wartburg date back to 1875 

Seminar on "The Purloined Letter" 


the first appearance of the signification of the 
verb depister as I used it the second time in this 
sentence. [In English, see Emile Benveniste, 
Problems in General Linguistics, 65—75. See 
also Freud's article "The Antithetical Mean- 
ing of Primal Words," SEXl, 155-61.] 

8. The very Utopia to which Jorge Luis 
Borges, in his work which harmonizes so well 
with the phylum of my subject matter, has 
accorded an importance which others reduce 
to its proper proportions. See Les Temps 
Modernes 113-14 (June-July 1955): 2135-36 
and 118 (October 1955): 574-75. 

9. Poe 's emphasis. 

10. This is so true that philosophers, in 
those hackneyed examples with which they 
argue on the basis of the one and the many, 
will not put to the same purposes a simple 
sheet of white paper ripped down the middle 
and a broken circle, or even a shattered vase, 
not to mention a cut worm. 

1 1 . See Our Exagmination Round His Fact- 
ificationfor Incamination of "Work, in Progress " 
(Paris: Shakespeare & Co., 12 rue de l'Odeon, 

12. See Ecrits\%6, 59. 

13. I felt obliged at this point to demon- 
strate the procedure to the audience using a 
letter from that period which concerned 
Chateaubriand and his search for a secretary. I 
was amused to find that Chateaubriand had 
completed the first version of his memoirs 
(recently published in its original form) in the 
very month of November 1841 in which "The 
Purloined Letter" appeared in Chambers' 
Journal. Will Chateaubriand's devotion to the 
power he decries, and the honor which that 
devotion does him ("the gift" had not yet been 
invented), place him in the category to which 
we will later see the Minister assigned: among 
men of genius with or without principles? 

14. Poe is the author of an essay by this 

15. [Added in 1966:] And even from the 
cook herself. 

16. Virgil's line reads: facilis descensus 
Averno. ["The descent to Hades is easy"; see 
Virgil's Aeneid, book 6, line 126.] 

17. Let us recall the witty distich attributed 
before his fall to the most recent person to 

have rejoined Candide's meeting in Venice. 
"II nest plus aujourd'hui que cinq wis sur la 
terre, /Les quatre wis des cartes et le roi dAn- 
gleterre" (There are only five kings left on 
earth today: /The four kings of cards and the 
King of England.) 

18. This statement was openly made by a 
noble Lord speaking to the Upper House in 
which his dignity earned him a seat. 

19. 1 am referring to the fundamental oppo- 
sition Aristotle makes between these two 
terms [automaton and tyche] in the conceptual 
analysis of chance he provides in his Physics. 
Many discussions would be clarified if it were 
not overlooked. 

20. 1 am referring here to the Entwurfeiner 
Psychologie ["Project for a Scientific Psychol- 
ogy"] written in 1895 which, unlike the 
famous letters to Fliess (with which it was 
included [in The Origins of Psychoanalysis] 
since it was addressed to him), was not cen- 
sored by its editors. Certain mistakes found in 
the German edition, owing to the misreading 
of the handwritten manuscript, even indicate 
how little attention was paid to its meaning. It 
is clear in this passage that I am merely punc- 
tuating a position that was developed in my 

21. [Added in 1966:] For greater clarity, let 
me illustrate this notation using the following 
random [hasard] series: 

+ ++- + + -- + - 

12 3 2 2 2 2 3 etc. 

22. This dissymmetry is truly the one that 
unites the usages of the English word that, as 
far as I know, has no equivalent in any other 
language: "odd." The French usage of the 
word "impair" to designate an aberration of 
conduct shows us something of a sketch 
thereof; but the word "disparate" itself proves 
inadequate here. 

23. See the revitalizing reprising of it by 
Claude Levi-Strauss in his article "Les organ- 
isations dualistes existent-elles?" in Bijdragen 
tot de taal-, land- en Volkenkunde, Deel 1 12, 2 
(Gravenhage, 1956), 99-128. This article can 
be found in French in a collection of works by 
Claude Levi-Strauss published as Anthropolo- 
gie structural (Paris: Plon, 1958). [In English, 


see "Do Dual Organizations Exist?" in Struc- 
tural Anthropology, trans. C. Jacobson and B. 
G. Schoepf (New York: Basic Books, 1963).] 

24. These two letters correspond to the dex- 
trogyrate and levogyrate nature of a figuration 
that situates the excluded terms in quadrants. 

25. [Added in 1966:] If one does not take into 
account the order of the letters, this caput mor- 
tuum is only 7/16. 

26. This is why I have since introduced a 
more appropriate topology. 

27. See the Abbot of Choisy, whose famous 
memoirs can be translated as: / think, when I 
am the one who dresses like a woman. 

28. Let me add here the network of the as, 
Ps, ys, and 6s, which is constituted by a trans- 
formation of the 1—3 Network. As all mathe- 
maticians know, it is obtained by transforming 
the segments of the first network into the cuts 
of the second and by marking the oriented paths 
joining these cuts. It is as follows (I am placing 
it next to the first for greater clarity): 


the letters are based: 

0.0 = y 
1.0 = p 


(One can see here why I said that there are two 
types of in my L chain, for there are those 0s 
that correspond to y = 000 and those 0s that cor- 
respond to y = 010.) 

29. [Added in 1 966:] The text written in 1 955 
resumes here. The introduction of a structural 
approach to the field in psychoanalytic theory 
through such exercises was, in fact, followed by 
important developments in my teaching. Con- 
cepts related to subjectivization progressed 
hand-in-hand with a reference to the analysis 
situs in which I claim to materialize the subjec- 
tive process. 

30. It was in order to dispel this illusion that 
I closed that year's seminar with a lecture on 
"Psychoanalysis and Cybernetics" [Seminar II, 
chapter 23], which disappointed many because 
I barely spoke in it of anything other than 
binary numeration, the arithmetic triangle, and 
even of the simple gate, defined by the fact that 
it must be open or closed — in short, because it 
seemed that I had not gone very far beyond the 
Pascalian stage of the question. 

a, P, Y, 6 NETWORK 

Here I propose the convention upon which 

On My Antecedents 65 

In taking a step back now to present the work that marked my entry into 
psychoanalysis, I will remind the reader by what doorway this entry 

As a physician and a psychiatrist, I had introduced, under the heading of 
"paranoiac knowledge," several end results of the method of clinical 
exhaustion that my doctoral thesis in medicine exemplified. 1 

Rather than mention the group (Evolution Psychiatrique) that was will- 
ing to publish my exposition of these results, or even mention their echo 
in the surrealist environment in which a former link was reestablished on 
the basis of a new relay, including Salvador Dali's "critical paranoia" and 
Rene Crevel's Le Clavecin de Diderot — my offspring can be found in the 
first issues of the journal Minotaure 1 — I will indicate the origin of my inter- 
est in it. 

It stems from the work of Gatian de Clerambault, my only master in 

His notion of "mental automatism," with its metaphorical, mechanis- 
tic ideology, which is assuredly open to criticism, seems to me, in its attempt 
to come to grips with the [patient's] subjective text, closer to what can be 
constructed on the basis of a structural analysis than any other clinical 
approach in French psychiatry. 

I was sensitive to the hint of a promise that I perceived in it due to the 

52 Ecrits 

contrast between it and the decline that could be seen in a semiology that 
was ever more bogged down in assumptions related to rationality. 
66 Clerambault achieved, through the quality of his gaze and the biases of 

his thought, a sort of recurrence of what has recently been described for 
us in a figure that dates back to the birth of the clinic. 3 

Clerambault was very familiar with the French tradition, but it was Krae- 
pelin, whose clinical genius was of a higher caliber, who trained him. 

Oddly enough, but necessarily, I believe, I was thereby led to Freud. 

For faithfulness to the symptom's formal envelope, which is the true clin- 
ical trace for which I acquired a taste, led me to the limit at which it swings 
back in creative effects. In the case included in my dissertation (the case of 
Aimee), there were literary effects — of high enough quality to have been 
collected, under the (reverent) heading of involuntary poetry, by Eluard. 

The function of ideals presented itself to me here in a series of redupli- 
cations that led me to the notion of a structure, which was more instruc- 
tive than the account the clinicians in Toulouse would have provided, for 
they would have lowered its price by situating it in the register of passion. 

Moreover, the sort of gust effect that, in my subject, blew down the screen 
known as a delusion as soon as her hand touched, in a serious act of aggres- 
sion, one of the images in her theater — who was doubly fictitious for her 
since she was also a star in reality — redoubled the conjugation of her poetic 
space with a gulf-like scansion. 

This brought me closer to the stage machinery of acting out [passage a 
facte] and, if only by confining myself to the all-purpose word "self-pun- 
ishment" that Berlin-style criminology offered me through the mouthpieces 
of Alexander and Staub, I was led to Freud. 

The way in which a knowledge [connaissance] is specified on the basis 
of its stereotypy, and also of its discharges, providing evidence of another 
function, [seemed to me to] lead to an enrichment which no academicism, 
even that of the avant-garde, could have turned away. 

Perhaps it will be understood that by crossing the doorstep of psycho- 
analysis, I immediately recognized in its practice knowledge-related biases 
that are far more interesting, since they are those that must be eliminated 
in its fundamental listening. 
6 j I had not awaited that moment to meditate upon the fantasies through 

which the idea of the ego is apprehended, and if I presented the "mirror 
stage" in 1936, 4 when I had yet to be granted the customary title of ana- 
lyst, at the first International Congress at which I had my first taste of an 
association that was to give me plenty of others, I was not lacking in merit 
for doing so. For its invention brought me to the very heart of a resistance 

On My Antecedents 5j 

in theory and technique which, constituting an ever more blatant problem 
thereafter, was, it must be admitted, far from being perceived by the milieu 
I started out in. 

I have thought it well to first offer the reader a short article, which was 
written around the same time as that presentation. 

My students occasionally delude themselves into thinking that they have 
found "already there" in my writings what my teaching has only brought 
out since then. Is it not enough that what is there did not bar the way to 
what came later? Let the reference to language that is sketched out here be 
seen as the fruit of the only imprudence that has never failed me: that of 
trusting in nothing but the experience of the subject who is the only mate- 
rial of analytic work. 

My title, "Beyond . . . ," did not hesitate to paraphrase the other Beyond 
that Freud assigns to his pleasure principle in 1920. Which leads us to won- 
der: Did Freud throw off the yoke thanks to which he maintained this prin- 
ciple by pairing it with the reality principle? 

In his Beyond, Freud makes room for the fact that the pleasure principle 
— to which he has, in sum, given a new meaning by instating its signify- 
ing articulation of repetition in the circuit of reality, in the form of the 
primary process — takes on a still newer meaning by helping force open its 
traditional barrier related to a jouissance, a jouissance that is pinpointed at 
that time in masochism, and even opens onto [the question of] the death 

What happens, under such conditions, to this intertwining by which the 
identity of thoughts that stem from the unconscious offers its woof to the 
secondary process, by permitting reality to become established to the plea- 68 

sure principle 's satisfaction} 

That is the question with which the reversed reprisal of the Freudian 
project, by which I have recently characterized my project, could be 

While we have the beginnings of it here, it could go no further. Let us 
simply say that it does not exaggerate the scope of psychoanalytic action 
[Facte psychanalytique] when it assumes that the latter transcends the sec- 
ondary process to attain a reality that is not produced in it, even if it dis- 
pels the illusion that reduced the identity of thoughts to the thought of their 

Although everyone agrees, in fact (even those who are dumb enough 
not to realize that they agree), that the primary process encounters noth- 
ing real except the impossible, which in the Freudian perspective remains 

54 Ecrits 

the best definition that can be given of reality [reel], the point is to know 
more about what Else [d 9 Autre] it encounters so that we can concern our- 
selves with it. 

Thus it is not to be duped by an effect of perspective to see here the first 
delineation of the imaginary, whose letters, associated with those of the 
symbolic and the real, will decorate much later (just before my Rome dis- 
course) the pots — that are forever empty, since they are all so symbolic — 
in which I will prepare the theriac with which to resolve the confusions of 
analytic cogitation. 

There is nothing here that is not justified by my attempt to refute the mis- 
guided idea that there must be something, anything whatsoever, in the sub- 
ject that corresponds to a reality [reel] system — or even, as people in other 
circles say, to a characteristic function of reality. It is to this very mirage 
that a theory of the ego is currently devoted which, in basing itself on the 
return Freud assures this agency in his Group Psychology and the Analysis 
of the Ego, goes astray since that text includes nothing but the theory of 

The aforementioned theory [ego psychology] fails to refer to the nec- 
essary antecedent to Group Psychology, which served as its basis: the arti- 
cle entitled "On Narcissism." It was, of course, published in 1914, a year 
in which the attention of the analytic community was stretched a bit thin. 

There is nothing here, in any case, which allows us to consider unequiv- 
ocal the reality that people invoke by combining in it the two terms, Wirk- 
lichkeit and Realitat, that Freud distinguishes in this article, the second being 
especially reserved for psychical reality. 
69 Whence derives the value, which is wirklich, operative, of the wedge 

that I drive in here by putting back in its place the deceptive truism that 
identicalness to oneself, which is presumed to exist in the ego's usual sense 
[of itself], has something to do with a supposed instance of reality [reel]. 

If Freud reminds us of the relationship between the ego and the per- 
ception-consciousness system, it is only to indicate that our reflective tra- 
dition — we would be wrong to think that it has had no social impact insofar 
as it has served as a basis for political forms of personal status — has tested 
its standards of truth in this system. 

But it is in order to call these standards of truth into question that Freud 
links the ego, on the basis of a twofold reference, to one 's own body — that 
is narcissism — and to the complexity of the three orders of identification. 

The mirror stage establishes the watershed between the imaginary and 
the symbolic in the moment of capture by an historic inertia, responsibil- 

On My Antecedents 55 

ity for which is borne by everything that alleges to be psychology, even if 
it is by pathways that claim to release it from that responsibility. 

This is why I did not give my article on the reality principle the sequel 
it announced, which was to assail Gestalt theory and phenomenology. 

Instead, I constantly emphasized a moment in analytic practice which 
is not one of history but of configuring insight*, which I designated as a 
stage, even if it emerged as a phase. 

Must this phase be reduced to a biological crisis? The dynamic of this phase, 
as I outline it, is based on diachronic effects: the delayed coordination of 
the nervous system related to man's prematurity at birth, and the formal 
anticipation of its resolution. 

But to presume the existence of a harmony that is contradicted by many 
facts of ethology is tantamount to dupery. 

It masks the crux of a function of lack with the question of the place that 
this function can assume in a causal chain. Now, far from imagining elim- 
inating it from it, I currently consider such a function to be the very ori- 
gin of causalist noesis, which goes so far as to mistake it for its crossing 
into reality \passage au reel]. 

But to consider it effective due to its imaginary discordance is to still 
leave too much room for the presumption of birth. 

This function involves a more critical lack, its cover being the secret to 70 

the subject's jubilation. 

Here we can see that any dwelling [attardement] on the genesis of the 
ego shares in the vanity of what it judges. Which seems self-evident if we 
think about it: Can any step in the imaginary go beyond the imaginary's 
limits if it does not stem from another order? 

This is nevertheless what psychoanalysis clearly promises, and it would 
remain mythical were analysis to retreat to the same level as the imaginary. 

To pinpoint it in the mirror stage, we first have to know how to read in 
it the paradigm of the properly imaginary definition that is given of 
metonymy: the part for the whole. For let us not forget that my concept 
envelops the so-called partial images — the only ones that warrant the term 
"archaic" — found in the analytic experience of fantasy; I group those 
images together under the heading of images of the fragmented body, and 
they are confirmed by the assertion of fantasies of the so-called paranoid 
phase in the phenomenology of Kleinian experience. 

What is involved in the triumph of assuming [assomption] the image of 
one's body in the mirror is the most evanescent of objects, since it only 
appears there in the margins: the exchange of gazes, which is manifest in 

56 Ecrits 

the fact that the child turns back toward the person who is assisting the 
child in some way, if only by being present during the game. 

Let me add to this something that a movie, which was made by people 
with no knowledge of my conceptions, showed us when it captured on film 
a little girl looking at herself naked in the mirror: with an awkward ges- 
ture, her hand quickly encountered the phallic lack. 

Regardless of what covers the image, nevertheless, the latter merely cen- 
ters a power that is deceptive insofar as it diverts alienation — which 
already situates desire in the Other's field — toward the totalitarian rivalry 
which prevails due to the fact that the semblable exercises a dyadic fasci- 
nation on him: that "one or the other" is the depressive return of the sec- 
ond phase in Melanie Klein's work; it is the figure of Hegelian murder. 

Let me add here, by way of an apologue with which to summarize the 
early misrecognition that takes root here, the use of the inversion produced 
in planar symmetry [right-left reversal]. It could only take on value 
through a more in-depth discussion of spatial orientation, which philoso- 
phy has not been more interested in, surprisingly enough, since Kant, hold- 
ing his glove at the end of his hand, based an aesthetics on it — an aesthetics 
that is nevertheless just as simple to turn inside out as the glove itself is. 

But this is already to situate the experience at a point that does not allow 
71 one to delude oneself regarding the link with the ability to see. Even a blind 

man is a subject here because he knows he is an object of other people's 
gazes. But the problem lies elsewhere and its articulation is as theoretical 
as that of Molyneux's problem: 5 we would have to know what the ego would 
be in a world where no one knows anything about planar symmetry. 

Lastly, let me remind you of the reference points of specular knowledge 
[connaissance] based on a semiology that runs the gamut from the most sub- 
tle depersonalization to the hallucination of one 's double. They are known 
to have no intrinsic diagnostic value as concerns the structure of the sub- 
ject (the psychotic, among others). It is more important to note, however, 
that they do not constitute a more consistent reference point for fantasy in 
psychoanalytic treatment. 

I thus find myself situating these texts in a future perfect: they will have 
anticipated my insertion of the unconscious into language. In seeing them 
spread out over the years that were not very full, aren't I exposing myself 
to the reproach of having given into dwelling on the past [attardement]? 

Apart from the fact that I certainly had to gain a following in our field 
of practice, I will plead that I could do no better during that time than pre- 
pare my audience. 

On My Antecedents 5y 

Present generations of psychiatrists will find it hard to imagine that, at 
the time that I was doing my residency, there were only three of us who 
got involved in psychoanalysis; and without being ungrateful to the group 
of people involved in Evolution Psychiatrique, I will say that although it 
was to their credit that psychoanalysis saw the light of day [in France], psy- 
choanalysis was not radically called into question by them. The intrusion 
of worldly matters did not increase either their solidarity or their infor- 
mation to this end. 

In fact, no teaching other than a routine fast-track existed prior to 1951 
when I began mine in a private capacity. 

While the quantity of recruits, from which an effect of quality is engen- 
dered, completely changed after the war, perhaps the standing-room-only 
crowd that came to hear me speak about "Training Analysis" will serve as 72 

a reminder that I played an important role therein. 

Up until then, however, the major institution that offered me the oppor- 
tunity to give several public lectures was the College Philosophique, where, 
at Jean Wanl's invitation, the intellectual fevers of the time faced off. 6 

Allow me to add that this note owes what is biographical in it only to 
my desire to enlighten the reader. 


1 . My thesis was published as De lapsychose frangaise that attests to the date of the theses it 
parano'iaque dans ses rapports avec la personnal- contained (1938). I, in fact, neglected to send 
ite (Paris: Le Francois, 1932). It was based on the write-up of my talk to those who prepared 
30 cases, although its method required that it the report on the Congress. 

include a monograph: the case of Aimee. This 5. See the article by Alain Grosrichard, 

fact explains the gallant assessment of it, by a "Une experience psychologique au XVIIIe 

luminary, found on page 536. siecle," Cahiers Pour VAnalyse II (May 1966), 

2. They include "Le probleme du style" which would also allow us to further explore 
("The Problem of Style") and "Motifs du the question of the subject from the fiction of 
crime parano'iaque" ("Motives of Paranoiac the philosophically inclined blind man to the 
Crime"); the latter article was devoted to the fiction of the blind philosopher. 

Papin sisters and was left out of a recent dis- 6. One of the talks I gave there was on the 

cussion of this subject by a contemporary. "Individual Myth of the Neurotic," the begin- 

3. See Michel Foucault's Naissance de la ning of a duly structuralist reference (see the 
clinique (Paris: PUF, 1964) [The Birth of the first text by Claude Levi-Strauss on myth). 
Clinic (New York: Pantheon, 1973)]. The mimeographed text of the talk, which 

4. It was at the Congress in Marienbad came out without being corrected by me, will 
(August 3, 1936) that my first pivotal inter- testify to its existence for a later reprisal. [The 
vention in psychoanalytic theory took place. text, originally printed in French in 1953, 
The reader will find an ironic reference to it appeared in English as "The Neurotic's Indi- 
on pages 184-85 of this collection, along with vidual Myth," trans. M. N. Evans, PQ 
a reference to the volume of the Encyclopedie XLVIII, 3 (1979): 405-25.] 


Beyond the "Reality Principle" 


For the psychiatrist or psychologist of the 1 930s, initiation into psychoana- 
lytic method no longer involves a conversion that constitutes a break in 
one's intellectual development, a conversion that thus attests less to a care- 
fully thought out choice of an avenue of research than to the outburst of 
secret affective strife. The appealing features that analysis once offered to 
the detours of compensation — the ethical seduction of devotion to a contro- 
versial cause, combined with the economic seduction of a form of specula- 
tion running counter to established values — are not missed. The new 
psychology not only fully accepts psychoanalysis; by constantly corrobo- 
rating it by research in disciplines that begin from other starting points, it 
demonstrates the value of psychoanalysis' pioneering work. Psychoanaly- 
sis is thus, one could say, approached from a normal angle of incidence by 
what I will call — without commenting on the arbitrary nature of such a for- 
mulation — the second generation of analysts. It is this angle of incidence 
that I would like to define here in order to indicate the path by which it is 
reflected back. 

Beyond the "Reality Principle" 5<j 


Critique ofAssociationism 

The Freudian revolution, like any revolution, derives its meaning from its con- 
text, that is, from the form of psychology that dominated at the time it 
occurred. Now, any judgment about that form of psychology presupposes an 
exegesis of the documents in which it is propounded. I will establish the frame 74 

of this article by asking the reader to credit me here, at least provisionally, with 
having done this basic work, so that I can provide what seems to me to be an 
essential moment of critique. For while I consider it legitimate to privilege the 
historical method in studying facts of consciousness, I do not use it as a pre- 
text to elude the intrinsic critique that questions their value. Such a critique, 
grounded in the secondary order conferred upon these facts in history by the 
element of reflection they involve, remains immanent in the data recognized 
by the method — in our case, in the expressed forms of the doctrine and the 
technique — assuming the method simply requires each of the forms in ques- 
tion to be what it purports to be. This will allow us to see why the late nine- 
teenth century form of psychology that claimed to be scientific and forced 
itself even on its adversaries, thanks both to its apparatus of objectivity and 
its profession of materialism, simply failed to be positive, excluding from the 
outset both objectivity and materialism. 

Indeed, one might say that this form of psychology was based on a so-called 
associationist conception of the psyche, not so much because it formulated this 
conception into a theory, but because it received a series of postulates from 
this conception — as though they were commonsense data — that determined 
its very way of situating problems. Of course, we see right from the outset 
that the framework with which it classified the phenomena into sensations, 
perceptions, images, beliefs, logical operations, judgments, and so on, was bor- 
rowed unchanged from scholastic psychology, which had itself borrowed it 
from centuries of philosophy. We must thus realize that this framework, far 
from having been created for an objective conception of psychical reality, was 
merely the product of a sort of conceptual decline in which the vicissitudes of 
a specific effort that impels man to seek a guarantee of truth for his own knowl- 
edge were retraced — a guarantee which, as we can see, is transcendent by its 
position and therefore remains transcendent in its form, even when philoso- 

Go Ecrits 

phers deny its existence. What hint of transcendence do the concepts that are 
relics of such research themselves retain? To answer this question would 
involve defining what associationism introduces that is not positive into the 
very constitution of the object of psychology. We will see how difficult it is 

75 to sort out at this level, in recalling that contemporary psychology preserves 
many of these concepts and that the purification of principles is what occurs 
last in every science. 

But question begging blossoms in the general economy of problems that 
characterizes the stage of a theory at any particular moment in time. Thus 
considered as a whole, which is facilitated by our ability to view it with hind- 
sight, associationism will strikingly reveal to us its metaphysical implications. 
In order to oppose it simply to a conception that is more or less judiciously 
defined in the theoretical foundations of various contemporary schools by the 
term "function of reality," let us say that associationist theory is dominated 
by the "function of truth." 

Associationism is based on two concepts: the first, the "engram," is mechanis- 
tic; the second, the "associative link" of the mental phenomenon, is fallaciously 
considered to be given by experience. The first is a research formulation, 
and a rather flexible one at that, designed to designate the psychophysical 
element; it merely introduces the hypothesis, which is nevertheless funda- 
mental, of the passive production of this element. It is notable that the asso- 
ciationist school added a postulate, that of the atomistic nature of this 
element. It is, in fact, this postulate that limited the vision of its adherents to 
the point of making them "overlook" experimental facts in which the sub- 
ject's activity in organizing the form is manifest, facts which are, moreover, 
so compatible with a materialist interpretation that their inventors later con- 
ceptualized them from a materialist vantage point. 

The second of these concepts, that of the associative link, is based on the 
experience of the living being's reactions. It is extended, however, to mental 
phenomena without the question begging implied in it being in any way cri- 
tiqued, question begging that this concept borrows precisely from the psy- 
chical pregiven, in particular, the question begging which assumes that the 
mental form of similarity is given, even though it is in itself so difficult to ana- 
lyze. The very pregivenness of the phenomenon that is purportedly explained 
here is thus smuggled into the explanatory concept. All this involves verita- 
ble conceptual sleight of hand (whose innocence does not excuse its crude- 
ness) which, as Janet stressed, in functioning as a veritable intellectual flaw 

76 characteristic of a school, truly becomes a master key used at every turning 

Beyond the "Reality Principle" 61 

point in the theory. Needless to say, one can thereby totally ignore the need 
for the kind of analysis known as "phenomenological analysis" — which no 
doubt requires subtlety but whose absence renders null and void any expla- 
nation in psychology. 

We must thus wonder about the meaning of these failings in the develop- 
ment of a discipline that claims to be objective. Is it due to materialism, as a 
certain critic maintained without meeting with any objection? Or worse still, 
is objectivity itself impossible to attain in psychology? 

People will denounce the theoretical flaw here once they recognize that the 
problem of knowledge is posed in associationism's structure from a philo- 
sophical perspective. This is certainly the traditional position on this problem 
which, having been inherited, in its first disguise, from Locke's so-called 
empiricist formulations, is found anew in two of the doctrine 's fundamental 
concepts — namely, in the ambiguity of a critique which, (1) with the thesis 
"nihil est in intellectu quod non prius fuerit in sensu," reduces reality's action 
to its point of contact with pure sensation, that mythical entity, in other words, 
reduces it to being nothing but the blind spot of knowledge, since nothing is 
recognized there, and which (2) imposes all the more strongly, whether this is 
made explicit or not in "nisi intellectus ipse," as the dialectical antinomy of an 
incomplete thesis, the primacy of pure mind, insofar as it constitutes the true 
moment of knowledge, through the essential decree of identification, recog- 
nizing the object at the same time that it asserts it. 

This is the source of the atomistic conception of the engram from which the 
blindnesses of the doctrine with respect to experience stem, while the associa- 
tive link, through its uncriticized implications, brings with it a fundamentally 
idealist theory of knowledge phenomena. 

This last point, which is obviously paradoxical in a doctrine whose preten- 
sions are those of a naive materialism, clearly appears as soon as one attempts 
to formulate it in a slightly systematic manner, that is, in a manner that subjects 
it to the coherence of its concepts. Taine's attempt, which is that of a popular- 
izer, but still consistent, is precious to us in this regard. We see in it a construction 
on the basis of knowledge phenomena, the objective of which is to reduce the 
higher activities to complexes of elementary reactions; it is reduced thereby to 77 

seeking differential criteria of elementary reactions in the control of the higher 
activities. In order to fully grasp this paradox, consider the striking definition 
he gives of perception as a "veridical hallucination." 

The dynamism of concepts borrowed from a transcendental dialectic is thus 
such that associationist psychology, in attempting to base itself on that dialec- 
tic, fails to constitute its object in positive terms, failing all the more fatally in 

62 Ecrits 

that it receives those concepts emptied of the reflection they bring with them. 
Indeed, once the phenomena are defined in that form of psychology as a func- 
tion of their truth, they are submitted in their very conception to a classifica- 
tion on the basis of value. Such a hierarchy not only vitiates, as we have seen, 
the objective study of the phenomena as regards their import in knowledge 
itself, but by subordinating all of the psychical pregiven to its perspective, it 
also skews the analysis thereof and impoverishes its meaning. 

By assimilating the phenomenon of hallucination with the sensory order, 
associationist psychology thus merely reproduces the absolutely mythical 
import that the philosophical tradition attributes to this phenomenon in the 
standard question regarding the error of the senses. The fascination charac- 
teristic of this theoretically scandalous role no doubt explains the true mis- 
recognitions in the analysis of the phenomenon that allow for the perpetuation 
of a position regarding the problem that is so erroneous, yet still tenaciously 
held to by many a clinician. 

Let us now consider the problems of the image. The latter, which is no doubt 
the most important phenomenon in psychology due to the wealth of concrete 
data we have about it, is also important due to the complexity of its function, 
a complexity that one cannot attempt to encompass with a single term, unless 
it is with that of "information function." The various acceptations of this term 
that, running from the ordinary to the archaic, target the notion regarding an 
event, the stamp of an impression or the organization by an idea, express rather 
well, in fact, the roles of the image as the intuitive form of the object, the plas- 
tic form of the engram, and the generative form of development. This extraor- 
dinary phenomenon — the problems of which run from mental phenomenology 
to biology and the action of which echoes from the conditions of the mind to 
the organic determinisms of a perhaps unsuspected depth — is reduced in asso- 
78 ciationism to its function as an illusion. The image, being viewed, according to 

the spirit of the theory, as a weakened sensation insofar as it attests less surely to 
reality, is considered to be the echo and shadow of sensation, and is consequendy 
identified with its trace, the engram. The conception of the mind as a "poly- 
pary of images," which is essential to associationism, has been criticized above 
all for asserting a purely metaphysical mechanism; it has less often been pointed 
out that its essential absurdity lies in the intellectualist impoverishment that it 
imposes upon images. 

In fact, a very large number of psychical phenomena are considered to sig- 
nify nothing, according to the conceptions of this school. These phenomena 
thus supposedly cannot be included within the framework of an authentic psy- 
chology, which has to take into account the fact that a certain intentionality is 
phenomenologically inherent in its object. In associationism, this is equivalent 

Beyond the "Reality Principle" 63 

to considering them to be insignificant, in other words, to rejecting them either 
to the nothingness of neglect or to the emptiness of "epiphenomena." 

Such a conception thus creates two categories of psychical phenomena: those 
phenomena that fit into some level of the operations of rational knowledge, 
and all the others, including feelings, beliefs, delusions, assents, intuitions, and 
dreams. The former necessitated an associationist analysis of the psyche; the 
latter must be explained by some determinism that is foreign to their "appear- 
ance" and that is said to be "organic" insofar as it reduces them to being either 
the prop of a physical object or related to a biological end. 

Psychical phenomena are thus granted no reality of their own: those that 
do not belong to "true" reality have only an illusory reality. This true reality 
is constituted by the system of references that are valid in already established 
sciences — in other words, mechanisms that are considered tangible in the phys- 
ical sciences, to which may be added the motivations considered utilitarian in 
the natural sciences. The role of psychology is merely to reduce psychical phe- 
nomena to this system and to verify the system by determining through it the 
very phenomena that constitute our knowledge of it. It is insofar as this psy- 
chology is a function of this truth that it is not a science. 

The Truth of Psychology and the Psychology of Truth 79 

Let me try to make my point clear. I am not playing at being paradoxical by 
claiming that science need know nothing about truth. But I am not forgetting 
that truth is a value that (cor)responds to the uncertainty with which man's 
lived experience is phenomenologically marked or that the search for truth 
historically motivates, under the heading of the spiritual, the mystic's flights 
and the moralist's rules, the ascetic's progress and the mystagogue 's finds alike. 

This search, by imposing on an entire culture the preeminence of truth in 
testimony, created a moral attitude that was and remains for science a condi- 
tion of its existence. But truth in its specific value remains foreign to the order 
of science: science can be proud of its alliances with truth; it can adopt the phe- 
nomenon and value of truth as its object; but it cannot in any way identify 
truth as its own end. 

If there seems to be something artificial about this, one should dwell an instant 
on the lived criteria of truth and wonder what, in the dizzying relativisms that 
contemporary physics and mathematics have arrived at, subsists of the most con- 
crete of these criteria: Where are certainty, that proof of mystical knowledge, 
self evidence, the foundation of philosophical speculation, and noncontradiction 
itself, the more modest requirement of the empirical/ rationalist construction? 

64 Ecrits 

To consider an example that is more within the reach of our judgment, can we 
say that scientists wonder if the rainbow is true} All that matters to them is 
that this phenomenon be communicable in some language (the condition of 
the intellectual order) , that it be reportable in some form (the condition of the 
experimental order), and that it be possible to insert into the chain of symbolic 
identifications with which their science unifies the diversity of its own object 
(the condition of the rational order). 

It must be admitted that physicomathematical theory at the end of the nine- 
teenth century was still based on foundations that were intuitive enough that 
one could consider those foundations, which have since been eliminated, 
responsible for the prodigious fecundity of that theory and thus see in them 
80 the omnipotence implied in the idea of truth. Furthermore, the practical suc- 

cesses of this science conferred upon it a brilliant prestige for the masses which 
is not unrelated to the phenomenon of self-evidence. Science thus found itself 
in a good position to serve as the ultimate object of the passion for truth, lead- 
ing everyman to bow to the new idol called "scientism" and leading "schol- 
ars" ["clerc"] to the eternal pedantry that mutilates what they are able to grasp 
of reality, because they do not realize how much their truth is relative to the 
walls of their tower. This is the mutilation committed by associationist psy- 
chologists because they are only interested in the act of knowing, that is, in 
their own activity as scientists; the fact that it is speculative does not make it 
have any the less cruel consequences for living beings and for human beings. 

Indeed, a similar point of view forces upon the physician an astonishing con- 
tempt for psychical reality, the scandalous nature of which, perpetuated in our 
times by the maintenance of an entirely academic approach to training, is 
expressed both in the biased nature of observation and in hybrid conceptions 
like that of "pithiatism." But because it was in the physician, that is, in the 
practitioner par excellence of inner life, that this point of view appeared in the 
most flagrant manner as a systematic negation, the negation of this very point 
of view also had to come from a physician. I am not referring to the purely 
critical negation that flourished, around that same time, in speculation about 
the "immediate data of consciousness," but rather to a negation that was effi- 
cient in that it asserted itself in the form of a new positivity. Freud took this 
fruitful step no doubt because, as he indicates in his autobiography, he was 
made to do so by his concern with healing, that is, by an activity in which we 
must recognize the very intelligence of human reality insofar as it attempts to 
transform that reality, as opposed to those who enjoy relegating this activity 
to the subordinate rank of an "art." 

Beyond the "Reality Principle" 65 

Freud 9 s Revolutionary Method 8 1 

The first sign of an attitude of submission to reality in Freud 's work was the 
recognition that, since the majority of psychical phenomena in man are appar- 
ently related to a social relations function, there is no reason to exclude the 
pathway which provides the most usual access to it: the subject's own account 
of these phenomena. 

We may well wonder, moreover, on what the physician of that time based 
the ostracism with which he greeted the patient's account on grounds of prin- 
ciple, if it was not his annoyance at seeing that his own biases were so ordi- 
nary as to be shared by everyone else. Indeed, it is the attitude shared by an 
entire culture which guided the abstraction that I analyzed earlier as that of 
the learned: to the patient and the physician alike, psychology is the field of 
the "imaginary," in the sense of the illusory. Consequently, the symptom, which 
has a real signification, cannot be psychological except "in appearance," and 
it is distinguished from the ordinary register of psychical life by some discor- 
dant feature in which its "serious" character manifests itself. 

Freud understood that it was this very choice that made the patient's 
account worthless. If we wish to recognize a reality that is proper to psychi- 
cal reactions, we must not begin by choosing among them; we must begin by 
no longer choosing. In order to gauge their efficacy, we must respect their suc- 
cession. Certainly, there is no question of restoring the chain of those reac- 
tions through the narrative, but the very moment in which the account is given 
can constitute a significant fragment of the chain, on condition that we 
demand that the patient provide the entire text and that we free him from the 
chains of the narrative. 

This is the way in which what we may call "analytic experience" is con- 
stituted: its first condition is formulated in a law oj non-omission , which pro- 
motes everything that "is self-explanatory," the everyday and the ordinary, 
to the status of interesting that is usually reserved for the remarkable; but it 
is incomplete without the second condition, the law of non-systematiiation, 
which, positing incoherence as a condition of analytic experience, presumes 
significant all the dross of mental life — not only the representations in which 82 

scholastic psychology sees only nonmeaning (dream scenarios, presenti- 
ments, daydreams, and confused or lucid delusions), but also the phenomena 
that are not even granted a civil status in it, so to speak, since they are alto- 
gether negative (slips of the tongue and bungled actions). Let us note that 
these two laws, or better, rules of analytic experience, the first of which was 
isolated by Pichon, appear in Freud's work in the form of a single rule that 

66 Ecrits 

he formulated, in accordance with the concept prevailing at the time, as the 
law of free association. 

A Phenomeno logical Description of Psychoanalytic Experience 

It is analytic experience itself that constitutes the element of therapeutic tech- 
nique, but the doctor may propose, if he has some theoretical sense, to define 
what it contributes to observation. He will then have many an opportunity to 
marvel, if that is indeed the form of astonishment that corresponds in research 
to the appearance of a relationship that is so simple that it seems to evade 
thought's grasp. 

The pregiven of this experience is, first, some language, a language — in 
other words, a sign. How complex is the problem of what it signifies, when 
the psychologist relates it to the subject of knowledge, that is, to the subject's 
thought? What relationship is there between the latter and language? Is the 
subject's thought but a language, albeit a secret one, or is it but the expression 
of a pure, unformulated thought? Where can we find the measure that is com- 
mon to the two terms of this problem, that is, the unity of which language is 
the sign? Is it contained in words: names, verbs, or even adverbs? In the den- 
sity of their history? Why not in the mechanisms that form them phonetically? 
How can we choose in this maze into which we are dragged by philosophers 
and linguists, psychophysicists and physiologists? How can we choose a ref- 
erence which, the more elementary we posit it to be, the more mythical it seems 
to us? 

But the psychoanalyst, in order not to detach analytic experience from the 
language of the situation that it implies, the situation of the interlocutor, comes 
upon the simple fact that language, prior to signifying something, signifies to 
83 someone. It is simply because the analyst is there listening that the man who 

speaks addresses him, and since he forces his discourse not to want to say any- 
thing [ne rien vouloir dire\ he becomes what this man wants to tell him. What 
the man says may, in fact, "have no meaning," but what he says to the analyst 
conceals one anyway. It is in the impulse to respond that the listener senses 
this; and it is by suspending this impulse to respond that the analyst under- 
stands the meaning of the discourse. He then recognizes in it an intention, one 
of the intentions that represent a certain tension in social relations: a demand- 
ing intention, a punitive intention, a propitiatory intention, a demonstrative 
intention, or a purely aggressive intention. Having thus understood this inten- 
tion, let us observe how language transmits it. It does so in two ways about 
which analysis teaches us a great deal: it is expressed, but not understood by 
the subject, in what his discourse relates about his lived experience, and this 

Beyond the "Reality Principle" 6y 

is true as long as the subject assumes the moral anonymity of expression (this 
is the form of symbolism); it is conceptualized, but denied by the subject, in 
what his discourse asserts about his lived experience, and this is true as long 
as the subject systematizes his conception (this is the form of negation). In 
analytic experience, intention thus turns out to be unconscious insofar as it is 
expressed and conscious insofar as it is repressed [reprimee]. And language, 
being approached via its function of social expression, reveals both its sig- 
nificant unity in intention and its constitutive ambiguity as subjective expres- 
sion, admitting something that contradicts thought or using thought to lie. 
Let us note in passing that these relations, which analytic experience offers 
up here to phenomenological exploration, provide a wealth of directives to 
all theories of "consciousness," especially morbid consciousness, since their 
incomplete recognition renders the majority of these theories useless. 

But let us pursue our outline of analytic experience. The listener is thus sit- 
uated in it as an interlocutor. The subject solicits him to assume this role, 
implicitly at first, but soon explicitly. Remaining silent nevertheless, and 
hiding everything including even his facial expressions (which are, more- 
over, barely noticed in him), the psychoanalyst patiently refuses to play this 
role. Is there not a threshold at which such an attitude must bring the sub- 
ject's monologue to a halt? If the subject continues, it is by virtue of the law 
of analytic experience; but is he still addressing the listener who is truly 
present or is he instead addressing some other now, someone who is imagi- 84 

nary but realer still: the phantom of a memory, witness of his solitude, statue 
of his duty, or messenger of his fate? 

In his very reaction to the listener's refusal [to assume the role of inter- 
locutor], the subject reveals the image he has replaced him with. He commu- 
nicates to the analyst the outline of this image through his imploring, 
imprecations, insinuations, provocations, and ruses, through the fluctuations 
of the intention that he directs at the analyst and that the latter motionlessly 
but not impassively takes note of. Nevertheless, as these intentions become 
more explicit in his discourse, they interweave with the accounts with which 
the subject supports them, gives them consistency, and gives them a rest. In 
this discourse, he formulates what he suffers from and what he wants to over- 
come through his analysis, he confides his secret failures and his successful 
designs, he judges his own character and his relations with other people. He 
thus informs the analyst about the entirety of his behavior, and the analyst, 
who witnesses a moment of that behavior, finds in it a basis for its critique. 
After such a critique, this behavior shows the analyst that the very image that 
he sees emerge from the subject's current behavior is actually involved in all 

68 Ecrits 

of his behavior. But the analyst's discoveries do not stop there, for as the sub- 
ject's demands take the form of pleas, his testimony broadens through its 
appeals to the witness. These are pure narratives that appear "outside the sub- 
ject" that the subject now throws into the stream of his discourse: unintended 
events and fragments of the memories that constitute his history, and, among 
the most disjointed, those that surface from his childhood. But we see that 
among these, the analyst stumbles anew upon the very image that, by playing 
the game as he does, he has awakened in the subject, the trace of which he 
found impressed upon himself by the subject. He certainly knew that this image 
was of human essence, since it provokes passion and oppresses, but it hid its 
characteristics from his gaze, like he himself does from the patient's. He dis- 
covers these characteristics in a family portrait that includes the image of the 
father or of the mother, of the all-powerful adult — tender or terrible, kindly 
or punishing — the image of a brother, a rival sibling, a reflection of the sub- 
ject himself or of one of his companions. 

But the very image that the subject makes present through his behavior, 

and that is constantly reproduced in it, is ignored by him, in both senses of the 

word: he does not know that this image explains what he repeats in his behav- 

8 5 ior, whether he considers it to be his own or not; and he refuses to realize [me'con- 

nait] the importance of this image when he evokes the memory it represents. 

Now, while the analyst completes the task of recognizing this image, the 
subject, through the debate that he carries on, completes the process of impos- 
ing its role on the analyst. The analyst derives the power he will have at his 
disposal in his action on the subject from this position. 

In effect, the analyst then acts in such a way that the subject becomes aware 
of the unity of the image that is refracted in him into disparate effects, depend- 
ing on whether he plays it out, incarnates it, or knows it. I will not describe 
here how the analyst proceeds in his intervention. He operates on the two reg- 
isters of intellectual elucidation through interpretation and handling affect 
through the transference. But to establish the times at which he does so is a mat- 
ter for technique, which defines them as a function of the subject's reactions; 
adjusting the speed at which he does so is a matter of tact, thanks to which the 
analyst is informed about the rhythm of these reactions. 

Let us simply say that, as the subject pursues his analysis and the lived 
process in which the image is reconstituted, his behavior stops mimicking the 
image 's suggestion, his memories reassume their real density, and the analyst 
sees his own power decline, having been rendered useless by the demise of the 
symptoms and the completion of the personality. 

Beyond the "Reality Principle" 69 

Discussion of the Objective Value of the Experience 

Such is the phenomenological description that can be given of what happens 
in the series of experiences that form a psychoanalysis. Some might say that 
it is the work of an illusionist were the result not precisely to dispel an illu- 
sion. Its therapeutic action, on the contrary, must be essentially defined as a 
twofold movement through which the image, which is at first diffuse and bro- 
ken, is progressively assimilated with reality, in order to be progressively dis- 
similated from reality, that is, restored to its proper reality. This action attests 
to the efficacy of this reality. 

But if it is not an illusory kind of work, then it must be a simple technique, 
some will say, and as an experience it is highly unsuitable for scientific obser- 
vation since it is based on conditions that are diametrically opposed to objec- 
tivity. For have I not just described this experience as a constant interaction 86 
between the observer and the object? It is, in effect, in the very movement that 
the subject gives it through his intention that the observer is informed of this 
intention — I have even stressed the primordial nature of this pathway. 
Inversely, through the assimilation that it fosters between himself and the 
image, it subverts from the outset the function of this image in the subject. Of 
course, he only identifies the image in the very progress of this subversion — 
I have not tried to dissimulate the constitutive nature of this process. 

The absence of a fixed reference in the system that is observed and the use, 
for the purposes of observation, of the very subjective movement that is 
eliminated everywhere else as a source of error, are challenges, it seems, to a 
sound method. 

Let me also indicate the challenge to proper usage that can be seen here. In 
the very case study [observation] that he provides us, can the observer hide his 
personal stake in the game? The intuitions of his finds are elsewhere referred 
to as delusions and we find it hard to discern from what experiences the insis- 
tence of his perspicacity proceeds. No doubt, the pathways by which truth is 
discovered are unsoundable, and there have even been mathematicians who 
have admitted to having seen the truth in dreams or having stumbled upon it 
by accident. Nevertheless, propriety requires one to present one *s discovery 
as having proceeded from a process that conforms more closely to the purity 
of the idea. Science, like Caesar's wife, must be above suspicion. 

In any case, the scientist's good reputation has been assured for quite some 
time now. Nature can no longer reveal itself in any sort of human form and every 
step forward in science has effaced from nature an anthropomorphic trait. 

yo Ecrits 

While I think I can speak ironically about what these objections betray by way 
of emotional resistance, I do not think I can dispense with responding to their 
ideological import. Without going too far afield on epistemological questions, 
I will posit first that physical science, as purified as it may seem in its modern 
progress from any intuitive category, nevertheless betrays, indeed all the more 
strikingly, the structure of the intelligence that constructed it. If someone like 

87 Meyerson could show that physical science is subjected in all its processes to 
the form of intellectual identification (a form that is so constitutive of human 
knowledge that he finds it anew through reflection in ordinary thought 
processes), and if the phenomenon of light (to provide here the standard of 
reference and the atom of action) manifests a relationship to the human sen- 
sorium that is more obscure here, don't these points — ideal points by which 
physics is related to man, but which are the poles around which physics 
revolves — demonstrate the most unsettling homologies to the pivotal roles 
assigned to human knowledge, as I mentioned earlier, by a tradition of reflec- 
tion that does not resort to experimentation? 

Be that as it may, the anthropomorphism that has been eliminated by 
physics in the notion of force, for example, is an anthropomorphism that is not 
noetic but psychological, for it is essentially the projection of human intention. 
To require a similar elimination in an anthropology that is in the process of 
being born and to impose such an elimination upon its most distant goals, would 
be to misrecognize its object and to authentically manifest an anthropocen- 
trism of another order, that of knowledge. 

Indeed, man has relations with nature that are specified, on the one hand, 
by the properties of identificatory thought, and on the other hand, by the use 
of instruments or artificial tools. His relations with his semblable proceed along 
pathways that are far more direct: I am not designating language here, or the 
elementary social institutions that are marked with artificiality in their struc- 
ture, regardless of their genesis. I am thinking, rather, of emotional commu- 
nication, which is essential to social groups and manifests itself immediately 
enough in the fact that man exploits his semblable, recognizes himself in this 
semblable, and is attached to this semblable by the indelible psychical link that 
perpetuates the truly specific vital misery of his first years of life. 

These relations can be contrasted with the relations that constitute knowl- 
edge, in the narrow sense of the term, as relations of connaturality: I mean to 
evoke with this term their homology to more immediate, global, and adapted 
forms that characterize, on the whole, animals' psychical relations with their 
natural environment and by which such psychical relations are distinguished 
from psychical relations in man. I shall return to the value of the teachings of 

88 animal psychology. In any case, man's idea of a world that is united to him 

Beyond the "Reality Principle" ji 

through a harmonious relationship allows us to divine its basis in the anthro- 
pomorphism of the myth of nature. As the effort is achieved that animates this 
idea, the reality of this basis is revealed in the ever vaster subversion of nature 
implied by the hominiiation of the planet: the "nature" of man is its relation- 
ship to man. 

The Object of Psychology Is Defined in Essentially Relativistic Terms 

It is in the specific reality of interpersonal relations that a psychology can define 
its own object and its method of investigation. The concepts implied by this 
object and this method are not subjective, but relativistic. Although they are 
anthropomorphic in their foundations, these concepts can develop into gen- 
eral forms of psychology, assuming their abovementioned extension to ani- 
mal psychology proves valid. 

Furthermore, the objective value of a form of research is demonstrated like 
the reality of motion is demonstrated: by the efficacy of its progress. What 
best confirms the excellence of the pathway that Freud defined by which to 
approach the phenomenon, with a purity that distinguished him from all other 
psychologists, is the prodigious advance that gave him a lead on all others in 
psychological reality. 

I will demonstrate this in part two of this article. I will simultaneously show 
the felicitous use he was able to make of the notion of the image. And if, with 
the term "imago," he did not fully extract it from the confused state of every- 
day intuition, he nevertheless masterfully exploited its concrete importance, 
preserving the entirety of its informational function in intuition, memory, and 

He demonstrated this function in discovering through analytic experience 
the process of identification. The latter is quite different from the process of 
imitation, which is distinguished by its partial and groping form of approxi- 
mation; identification contrasts with imitation not simply as the global assim- 
ilation of a structure but as the virtual assimilation of development implied by 89 
that structure in a still undifferentiated state. 

We thus know that a child perceives certain affective situations — for exam- 
ple, the particular bond between two individuals in a group — with far more 
immediate perspicacity than an adult. An adult, despite his greater psychical 
differentiation, is in fact inhibited both in human knowledge and in the con- 
duct of his relationships by conventional categories that censor them. But the 
absence of these categories serves a child less in permitting him to better per- 
ceive the signs than the primal structure of his psyche serves him in immedi- 
ately imbuing him with the essential meaning of the situation. But this is not 

j2 Ecrits 

the whole of his advantage: along with the significant impression, it also brings 
with it the germ, which it will develop in all its richness, of the social interac- 
tion that is expressed in it. 

This is why a man's character can include an identification with a parental 
feature that disappeared before the time of his earliest memories. What is trans- 
mitted by the psychical pathway are traits that give the individual the partic- 
ular form of his human relations, in other words, \i\s personality. But what man's 
behavior thus reflects are not simply these traits, which nevertheless are often 
among the most hidden, but the current situation in which the parent, who 
was the object of the identification, found himself when the identification 
occurred — for example, in a situation of conflict or of inferiority in the mar- 
ried couple. 

The result of this process is that man's individual behavior bears the mark 
of a certain number of typical psychical relations in which a certain social struc- 
ture is expressed, at the very least the constellation within that structure that 
especially dominates the first years of his childhood. 

These fundamental psychical relations have been revealed in analytic expe- 
rience and defined by analytic theory with the term "complexes." We should 
see in this term the most concrete, fruitful concept that has been contributed 
to the study of human behavior, as opposed to the concept of instinct which, 
up until the former's introduction, had proven to be as inadequate in this field 
as it was sterile. Although analytic doctrine has, in fact, related complexes to 
instincts, it seems that the theory is better clarified by the former than it is sup- 
ported by the latter. 
90 It is through the pathway of the complex that the images that inform the 

broadest units of behavior are instated in the psyche, images with which the 
subject identifies one after the other in order to act out, as sole actor, the drama 
of their conflicts. This comedy, which is situated by the genius of the species 
under the sign of laughter and tears, is a commedia dell'arte in that each indi- 
vidual improvises it and makes it mediocre or highly expressive depending on 
his gifts, of course, but also depending on a paradoxical law that seems to show 
the psychical fecundity of all vital insufficiency. It is a commedia dell'arte in 
the sense that it is performed in accordance with a typical framework and tra- 
ditional roles. One can recognize in it the very characters that have typified 
folklore, stories, and theater for children and adults — the ogre, the bogey- 
man, the miser, and the noble father — that complexes express in more schol- 
arly terms. We will see the figure of harlequin in an image to which the second 
part of this article will lead us. 

Beyond the "Reality Principle" js 

After having highlighted Freud 's phenomenologically acquired knowledge, I 
now turn to a critique of his metapsychology. It begins, precisely, with the 
introduction of the notion of "libido." Freudian psychology, propelling its 
induction with an audacity that verges on recklessness, claims to move from 
interpersonal relations, isolating them as determined by our culture, to the 
biological function that is taken to be their substratum; it locates this function 
in sexual desire. 

We must nevertheless distinguish between two different uses of the term 
"libido," which are constantly confounded in analytic theory: libido as an ener- 
getic concept, regulating the equivalence of phenomena, and libido as a sub- 
stantialist hypothesis, relating the phenomena to matter. 

I refer to the hypothesis as substantialist, and not as materialist, because 
recourse to the idea of matter is but a naive, outmoded form of authentic mate- 
rialism. In any case, it is the metabolism of the sexual function in man that 
Freud designates as the basis of the infinitely varied "sublimations" manifested 
in his behavior. 

I will not debate this hypothesis here, because it seems to me to lie outside 91 

of psychology's proper field. I will nevertheless emphasize that it is based on 
a clinical discovery of essential value: a correlation that constantly manifests 
itself between the exercise, type, and anomalies of the sexual function, on the 
one hand, and a large number of psychical forms and "symptoms," on the other 
hand. Let me add here that the mechanisms by which the hypothesis is devel- 
oped, which are very different from those of associationism, lead to facts that 
can be observationally verified. 

In effect, if the libido theory posits, for example, that childhood sexuality 
goes through an anal stage of organization and grants erotic value to the excre- 
tory function and the excremental object alike, this interest can be observed 
in the child exactly where the theory says it should be. 

As an energetic concept, on the contrary, libido is merely the symbolic nota- 
tion for the equivalence between the dynamisms invested by images in behav- 
ior. It is the very condition of symbolic identification and the essential entity of 
the rational order, without which no science could be constituted. With this 
notation, the efficacy of images — although it cannot yet be tied to a unit of 
measurement, but is already provided with a positive or negative sign — can 
be expressed through the equilibrium that the images establish and, in some 
sense, by balancing a pair of scales. 

The notion of libido in this usage is no longer metapsychological: it is the 
instrument of psychology's progress toward positive knowledge. The com- 
bination, for example, of the notion of libidinal cathexis with a structure as 

J4 Ecrits 

concretely defined as that of the "superego," represents — regarding both the 
ideal definition of moral conscience and the functional abstraction of so-called 
reactions of opposition and imitation — progress that can only be compared to 
that provided in the physical sciences by the relationship "weight divided by 
volume" when it replaced the quantitative categories heavy and light. 

The elements of ^positive determination were thus introduced between psy- 
chical realities that a relativistic definition has allowed us to objectify. This 
determination is dynamic or relative to the facts regarding desire. 

It was possible in this way to establish a scale for the constitution of man's 
92 objects of interest, and especially for those, which are prodigiously diverse, 

that remain an enigma, if psychology in theory posits reality such as knowl- 
edge constitutes it: anomalies of emotion and drive, idiosyncrasies of attrac- 
tion and repulsion, phobias and panic attacks, nostalgias and irrational wills; 
personal curiosities, selective collecting, inventions of knowledge, and job 

On the other hand, a classification of what one might call the "imaginary 
posts" that constitute the personality was defined, posts which are distributed 
and in which the images mentioned above as informing development — the id, 
the ego, and the archaic and secondary instances of the superego — are com- 
posed according to their types. 

Two questions arise here: how is the reality to which man's knowledge is 
universally attuned constituted by these images, these objects of interest? And 
how is the /constituted, in which the subject recognizes himself, by his typi- 
cal identifications? 

Freud answers these two questions by again moving onto metapsycholog- 
ical ground. He posits a "reality principle" whose role in his theory I propose 
to critique. But before doing so, I must first examine what has been provided 
by the studies that have been contributing to the new psychological science, 
alongside Freud's discipline, regarding the reality of the image and forms of 
knowledge. These will constitute the two parts of my second article. 

Marienbad and Noirmoutier, August— October 1936 

The Mirror Stage as Formative 
of the / Function 

as Revealed in Psychoanalytic Experience 

Delivered on July 17, 1949, in Zurich at the Sixteenth 
International Congress of Psychoanalysis 


The conception of the mirror stage I introduced at our last congress thirteen 
years ago, having since been more or less adopted by the French group, seems 
worth bringing to your attention once again — especially today, given the light 
it sheds on the / function in the experience psychoanalysis provides us of it. 
It should be noted that this experience sets us at odds with any philosophy 
directly stemming from the cogito. 

Some of you may recall the behavioral characteristic I begin with that is 
explained by a fact of comparative psychology: the human child, at an age 
when he is for a short while, but for a while nevertheless, outdone by the chim- 
panzee in instrumental intelligence, can already recognize his own image as 
such in a mirror. This recognition is indicated by the illuminative mimicry of 
the A ha-Erle/>nis y which Kohler considers to express situational apperception, 
an essential moment in the act of intelligence. 

Indeed, this act, far from exhausting itself, as in the case of a monkey, in 
eventually acquired control over the uselessness of the image, immediately 
gives rise in a child to a series of gestures in which he playfully experiences 
the relationship between the movements made in the image and the reflected 
environment, and between this virtual complex and the reality it duplicates — 
namely, the child's own body, and the persons and even things around him. 

This event can take place, as we know from Baldwin's work, from the age 
of six months on; its repetition has often given me pause to reflect upon the 
striking spectacle of a nursling in front of a mirror who has not yet mastered 94 

y6 Ecrits 

walking, or even standing, but who — though held tightly by some prop, human 
or artificial (what, in France, we call a trotte-bebe [a sort of walker]) — over- 
comes, in a flutter of jubilant activity, the constraints of his prop in order to 
adopt a slightly leaning-forward position and take in an instantaneous view 
of the image in order to fix it in his mind. 

In my view, this activity has a specific meaning up to the age of eighteen 
months, and reveals both a libidinal dynamism that has hitherto remained prob- 
lematic and an ontological structure of the human world that fits in with my 
reflections on paranoiac knowledge. 

It suffices to understand the mirror stage in this context as an identification, 
in the full sense analysis gives to the term: namely, the transformation that 
takes place in the subject when he assumes [assume] an image — an image that 
is seemingly predestined to have an effect at this phase, as witnessed by the 
use in analytic theory of antiquity's term, "imago." 

The jubilant assumption [assomption] of his specular image by the kind of 
being — still trapped in his motor impotence and nursling dependence — the 
little man is at the infans stage thus seems to me to manifest in an exemplary 
situation the symbolic matrix in which the /is precipitated in a primordial form, 
prior to being objectified in the dialectic of identification with the other, and 
before language restores to it, in the universal, its function as subject. 

This form would, moreover, have to be called the "ideal-I" 1 — if we wanted 
to translate it into a familiar register — in the sense that it will also be the root- 
stock of secondary identifications, this latter term subsuming the libidinal nor- 
malization functions. But the important point is that this form situates the 
agency known as the ego, prior to its social determination, in a fictional direc- 
tion that will forever remain irreducible for any single individual or, rather, 
that will only asymptotically approach the subject's becoming, no matter how 
successful the dialectical syntheses by which he must resolve, as I, his discor- 
dance with his own reality. 

For the total form of his body, by which the subject anticipates the matu- 
95 ration of his power in a mirage, is given to him only as a gestalt, that is, in an 

exteriority in which, to be sure, this form is more constitutive than constituted, 
but in which, above all, it appears to him as the contour of his stature that 
freezes it and in a symmetry that reverses it, in opposition to the turbulent 
movements with which the subject feels he animates it. Through these two 
aspects of its appearance, this gestalt — whose power [pregnance] should be 
considered linked to the species, though its motor style is as yet unrecogniz- 
able — symbolizes the /'s mental permanence, at the same time as it prefigures 
its alienating destination. This gestalt is also replete with the correspondences 
that unite the /with the statue onto which man projects himself, the phantoms 

The Mirror Stage as Formative of the / Function 77 

that dominate him, and the automaton with which the world of his own mak- 
ing tends to achieve fruition in an ambiguous relation. 

Indeed, for imagos — whose veiled faces we analysts see emerge in our daily 
experience and in the penumbra of symbolic effectiveness 2 — the specular image 
seems to be the threshold of the visible world, if we take into account the mir- 
rored disposition of the imago of one's own body in hallucinations and dreams, 
whether it involves one 's individual features, or even one 's infirmities or object 
projections; or if we take note of the role of the mirror apparatus in the appear- 
ance of doubles, in which psychical realities manifest themselves that are, more- 
over, heterogeneous. 

The fact that a gestalt may have formative effects on an organism is attested 
to by a biological experiment that is so far removed from the idea of psychi- 
cal causality that it cannot bring itself to formulate itself in such terms. The 
experiment nevertheless acknowledges that it is a necessary condition for the 
maturation of the female pigeon's gonad that the pigeon see another member 
of its species, regardless of its sex; this condition is so utterly sufficient that 
the same effect may be obtained by merely placing a mirror's reflective field 
near the individual. Similarly, in the case of the migratory locust, the shift within 
a family line from the solitary to the gregarious form can be brought about 
by exposing an individual, at a certain stage of its development, to the exclu- 
sively visual action of an image akin to its own, provided the movements of 
this image sufficiently resemble those characteristic of its species. Such facts 
fall within a realm of homeomorphic identification that is itself subsumed 96 

within the question of the meaning of beauty as formative and erogenous. 

But mimetic facts, understood as heteromorphic identification, are of just 
as much interest to us insofar as they raise the question of the signification of 
space for living organisms — psychological concepts hardly seeming less 
appropriate for shedding light here than the ridiculous attempts made to reduce 
these facts to the supposedly supreme law of adaptation. We need but recall 
how Roger Caillois (still young and fresh from his break with the sociologi- 
cal school at which he trained) illuminated the subject when, with the term 
"legendary psychasthenia," he subsumed morphological mimicry within the 
derealizing effect of an obsession with space. 

As I myself have shown, human knowledge is more independent than ani- 
mal knowledge from the force field of desire because of the social dialectic 
that structures human knowledge as paranoiac; 3 but what limits it is the "scant 
reality" surrealistic unsatisfaction denounces therein. These reflections lead 
me to recognize in the spatial capture manifested by the mirror stage, the effect 
in man, even prior to this social dialectic, of an organic inadequacy of his nat- 
ural reality — assuming we can give some meaning to the word "nature." 

j8 Ecrits 

The function of the mirror stage thus turns out, in my view, to be a partic- 
ular case of the function of imagos, which is to establish a relationship between 
an organism and its reality — or, as they say, between the Innenwelt and the 

In man, however, this relationship to nature is altered by a certain dehis- 
cence at the very heart of the organism, a primordial Discord betrayed by the 
signs of malaise and motor uncoordination of the neonatal months. The objec- 
tive notions of the anatomical incompleteness of the pyramidal tracts and of 
certain humoral residues of the maternal organism in the newborn confirm 
my view that we find in man a veritable specific prematurity of birth. 
97 Let us note in passing that this fact is recognized as such by embryologists, 

under the heading "fetalization," as determining the superiority of the so-called 
higher centers of the central nervous system, and especially of the cerebral 
cortex which psychosurgical operations will lead us to regard as the intra- 
organic mirror. 

This development is experienced as a temporal dialectic that decisively pro- 
jects the individual's formation into history: the mirror stage is a drama whose 
internal pressure pushes precipitously from insufficiency to anticipation — and, 
for the subject caught up in the lure of spatial identification, turns out fan- 
tasies that proceed from a fragmented image of the body to what I will call an 
"orthopedic" form of its totality — and to the finally donned armor of an alien- 
ating identity that will mark his entire mental development with its rigid struc- 
ture. Thus, the shattering of the Innenwelt to Umwelt circle gives rise to an 
inexhaustible squaring of the ego's audits. 

This fragmented body — another expression I have gotten accepted into the 
French school's system of theoretical references — is regularly manifested in 
dreams when the movement of an analysis reaches a certain level of aggres- 
sive disintegration of the individual. It then appears in the form of discon- 
nected limbs or of organs exoscopically represented, growing wings and 
taking up arms for internal persecutions that the visionary Hieronymus Bosch 
fixed for all time in painting, in their ascent in the fifteenth century to the imag- 
inary zenith of modern man. But this form turns out to be tangible even at the 
organic level, in the lines of "fragilization" that define the hysteric's fantas- 
matic anatomy, which is manifested in schizoid and spasmodic symptoms. 

Correlatively, the / formation is symbolized in dreams by a fortified camp, 
or even a stadium — distributing, between the arena within its walls and its outer 
border of gravel-pits and marshes, two opposed fields of battle where the sub- 
ject bogs down in his quest for the proud, remote inner castle whose form (some- 
times juxtaposed in the same scenario) strikingly symbolizes the id. Similarly, 
though here in the mental sphere, we find fortified structures constructed, the 

The Mirror Stage as Formative of the / Function 39 

metaphors for which arise spontaneously, as if deriving from the subject's very 
symptoms, to designate the mechanisms of obsessive neurosis: inversion, iso- 98 

lation, reduplication, undoing what has been done, and displacement. 

But were I to build on these subjective data alone — were I to so much as 
free them from the experiential condition that makes me view them as based 
on a language technique — my theoretical efforts would remain exposed to the 
charge of lapsing into the unthinkable, that of an absolute subject. This is why 
I have sought, in the present hypothesis grounded in a confluence of objec- 
tive data, a method of symbolic reduction as my guiding grid. 

It establishes a genetic order in ego defenses, in accordance with the wish 
formulated by Anna Freud in the first part of her major book, and situates (as 
against a frequently expressed prejudice) hysterical repression and its returns 
at a more archaic stage than obsessive inversion and its isolating processes, 
situating the latter as prior to the paranoiac alienation that dates back to the 
time at which the specular / turns into the social /. 

This moment at which the mirror stage comes to an end inaugurates, 
through identification with the imago of one 's semblable and the drama of 
primordial jealousy (so well brought out by the Charlotte Biihler school in 
cases of transitivism in children), the dialectic that will henceforth link the / 
to socially elaborated situations. 

It is this moment that decisively tips the whole of human knowledge [savoir] 
into being mediated by the other's desire, constitutes its objects in an abstract 
equivalence due to competition from other people, and turns the /into an appa- 
ratus to which every instinctual pressure constitutes a danger, even if it cor- 
responds to a natural maturation process. The very normalization of this 
maturation is henceforth dependent in man on cultural intervention, as is exem- 
plified by the fact that sexual object choice is dependent upon the Oedipus 

In light of my conception, the term "primary narcissism," by which ana- 
lytic doctrine designates the libidinal investment characteristic of this 
moment, reveals in those who invented it a profound awareness of semantic 
latencies. But it also sheds light on the dynamic opposition between this libido 
and sexual libido, an opposition they tried to define when they invoked 
destructive and even death instincts in order to explain the obvious relation- 
ship between narcissistic libido and the alienating / function, and the aggres- 
siveness deriving therefrom in all relations with others, even in relations 
involving aid of the most good-Samaritan variety. 

The fact is that they encountered that existential negativity whose reality 
is so vigorously proclaimed by the contemporary philosophy of being and 99 


So Ecrits 

Unfortunately, this philosophy grasps that negativity only within the lim- 
its of a self *-sufficiency of consciousness, which, being one of its premises, 
ties the illusion of autonomy in which it puts its faith to the ego's constitutive 
misrecognitions. While it draws considerably on borrowings from psychoan- 
alytic experience, this intellectual exercise culminates in the pretense of 
grounding an existential psychoanalysis. 

At the end of a society's historical enterprise to no longer recognize that 
it has any but a utilitarian function, and given the individual's anxiety faced 
with the concentration-camp form of the social link whose appearance seems 
to crown this effort, existentialism can be judged on the basis of the justifica- 
tions it provides for the subjective impasses that do, indeed, result therefrom: 
a freedom that is never so authentically affirmed as when it is within the 
walls of a prison; a demand for commitment that expresses the inability of 
pure consciousness to overcome any situation; a voyeuristic-sadistic ideal- 
ization of sexual relationships; a personality that achieves self-realization 
only in suicide; and a consciousness of the other that can only be satisfied by 
Hegelian murder. 

These notions are opposed by the whole of analytic experience, insofar as 
it teaches us not to regard the ego as centered on the perception-consciousness 
system or as organized by the "reality principle" — the expression of a scien- 
tific bias most hostile to the dialectic of knowledge — but, rather, to take as 
our point of departure the function of misrecognition that characterizes the ego 
in all the defensive structures so forcefully articulated by Anna Freud. For, 
while Verneinung [negation] represents the blatant form of that function, its 
effects remain largely latent as long as they are not illuminated by some 
reflected light at the level of fate where the id manifests itself. 

The inertia characteristic of the / formations can thus be understood as 
providing the broadest definition of neurosis, just as the subject's capture by 
his situation gives us the most general formulation of madness — the kind found 
within the asylum walls as well as the kind that deafens the world with its sound 
and fury. 

The sufferings of neurosis and psychosis provide us schooling in the pas- 
sions of the soul, just as the balance arm of the psychoanalytic scales — when 
we calculate the angle of its threat to entire communities — provides us with 
ioo an amortization rate for the passions of the city. 

At this intersection of nature and culture, so obstinately scrutinized by the 
anthropology of our times, psychoanalysis alone recognizes the knot of imag- 
inary servitude that love must always untie anew or sever. 

For such a task we can find no promise in altruistic feeling, we who lay bare 

The Mirror Stage as Formative of the /Function 81 

the aggressiveness that underlies the activities of the philanthropist, the ide- 
alist, the pedagogue, and even the reformer. 

In the subject to subject recourse we preserve, psychoanalysis can accom- 
pany the patient to the ecstatic limit of the "Thou art that," where the cipher 
of his mortal destiny is revealed to him, but it is not in our sole power as prac- 
titioners to bring him to the point where the true journey begins. 


1. 1 have let stand the peculiar translation I "L'efficacite symbolique," in Revue de I'his- 

adopted in this article for Freud's Ideal I ch [je- wire des religions CXXXV, 1 (1949): 5—27. 
ideal], without further comment except to say 3. See, on this point, the texts that follow, 

that I have not maintained it since. pages 1 1 1 and 180 [Ecrits 1966]. 

2. See Claude Levi-Strauss' essay, entitled 

ioi Aggressiveness in Psychoanalysis 

Theoretical paper presented in Brussels in mid-May 1948 at the 
Eleventh Congress of French-Speaking Psychoanalysts 

The preceding paper presented to you the use I make of the notion of aggres- 
siveness in clinical work and therapy. 1 That notion must now be put to the test 
before you to determine whether or not we can wrest a concept from it that 
may lay claim to scientific usefulness — in other words, a concept that can objec- 
tify facts that are of a comparable order in reality or, more categorically, that 
can establish a dimension of analytic experience in which these objectified facts 
may be regarded as variables. 

All of us here at this gathering share an experience based on a technique 
and a system of concepts to which we are faithful, as much because the sys- 
tem was developed by the man who opened up all of that experience 's path- 
ways to us, as because it bears the living mark of its stages of development. In 
other words, contrary to the dogmatism with which we are taxed, we know 
that this system remains open as regards both its completion and a number of 
its articulations. 

These hiatuses seem to come together in the enigmatic signification 
Freud expressed with the term "death instinct" — attesting, rather like the 
figure of the Sphinx, to the aporia this great mind encountered in the most 
profound attempt to date to formulate one of man's experiences in the bio- 
logical register. 

This aporia lies at the heart of the notion of aggressiveness, whose role in 
the psychical economy we appreciate better every day. 

That is why the question of the metapsychological nature of the deadly 

Aggressiveness in Psychoanalysis 83 

tendencies is constantly being raised by our theoretically inclined colleagues, 
not without contradiction, and often, it must be admitted, in a rather for- 
malistic way. 

I would simply like to proffer a few remarks or theses inspired by my years 1 02 

of reflection upon this veritable aporia in psychoanalytic doctrine, and by the 
sense I have — after reading numerous works — of our responsibility for the 
current evolution of laboratory psychology and psychotherapy. I am refer- 
ring, on the one hand, to so-called "behaviorist" research that seems to me to 
owe its best results (insignificant as they sometimes appear compared to the 
sizable theoretical apparatus with which they are framed) to the often implicit 
use it makes of categories psychoanalysis has contributed to psychology; and, 
on the other hand, to the kind of treatment, given to both adults and children, 
that might be placed under the heading of "psychodrama," which looks to abre- 
action for its therapeutic power — trying to exhaust it at the level of role play- 
ing — and to which classical psychoanalysis has, once again, contributed the 
actual guiding notions. 

Thesis I: Aggressiveness manifests itself in an experience that is 
subjective in its very constitution. 

It is, in fact, useful to reconsider the phenomenon of psychoanalytic experi- 
ence. In trying to get at the basics, reflection upon this is often omitted. 

It can be said that psychoanalytic action develops in and through verbal 
communication, that is, in a dialectical grasping of meaning. Thus it presup- 
poses a subject who manifests himself verbally in addressing another subject. 

It cannot be objected to us that this latter subjectivity must be null and void, 
according to the ideal physics lives up to — eliminating it by using recording 
devices, though it cannot avoid responsibility for human error in reading the 

Only a subject can understand a meaning; conversely, every meaning phe- 
nomenon implies a subject. In analysis, a subject presents himself as capable 
of being understood and is, in effect; introspection and supposedly projective 
intuition are not the a priori vitiations that psychology, taking its first steps 
along the path of science, believed to be irreducible. This would be to create 
an impasse out of moments that are abstractly isolated from a dialogue, 
whereas one should instead trust in its movement: it was to Freud 's credit that 1 03 

he assumed the risks involved before overcoming them by means of a rigor- 
ous technique. 

Can his results ground a positive science? Yes, if the experience can be ver- 
ified by everyone. Now this experience, constituted between two subjects, one 

84 Ecrits 

of whom plays in the dialogue the role of ideal impersonality (a point that will 
require explanation later), may, once completed — its only conditions having 
to do with the capability of this subject, which is something that may be required 
in all specialized research — be begun anew by the second subject with a third. 
This apparently initiatory path is simply transmission by recurrence, which 
should surprise no one since it stems from the very bipolar structure of all sub- 
jectivity. Only the speed at which the experience spreads is affected thereby; 
and while it may be debated whether the experience is restricted to the region 
in which a specific culture reigns — although no sound anthropology can raise 
objections on that score — all the indicators suggest that its results can be rel- 
ativized sufficiently to become generalizable, thus satisfying the humanitar- 
ian postulate inseparable from the spirit of science. 

Thesis II: Aggressiveness presents itself in analysis 

as an aggressive intention and as an image of corporal dislocation, and 

it is in such forms that it proves to be effective. 

Analytic experience allows us to experience intentional pressure. We read it 
in the symbolic meaning of symptoms — once the subject sheds the defenses 
by which he disconnects them from their relations with his everyday life and 
history — in the implicit finality of his behavior and his refusals, in his bun- 
gled actions, in the avowal of his favorite fantasies, and in the rebuses of his 
dream life. 

We can almost measure it in the demanding tone that sometimes perme- 
ates his whole discourse, in his pauses, hesitations, inflections, and slips of the 
tongue, in the inaccuracies of his narrative, irregularities in his application of 
the fundamental rule, late arrivals at sessions, calculated absences, and often 
in his recriminations, reproaches, fantasmatic fears, angry emotional reactions, 
and displays designed to intimidate. Actual acts of violence are as rare as might 
104 be expected given the predicament that led the patient to the doctor, and its 

transformation, accepted by the patient, into a convention of dialogue. 

The specific effect of this aggressive intention is plain to see. We regularly 
observe it in the formative action of an individual on those who are depend- 
ent upon him: intentional aggressiveness gnaws away, undermines, and dis- 
integrates; it castrates; it leads to death. "And I thought you were impotent!" 
growled a mother with a tiger's cry, to her son, who, not without great diffi- 
culty, had confessed to her his homosexual tendencies. One could see that her 
permanent aggressiveness as a virile woman had taken its toll. It has always 

Aggressiveness in Psychoanalysis 85 

been impossible, in such cases, for us to divert the blows of the analytic enter- 
prise itself. 

This aggressiveness is, of course, exercised within real constraints. But we 
know from experience that it is no less effective when conveyed by one 's mien 
[expressivite]: a harsh parent intimidates by his mere presence, and the image 
of the Punisher scarcely needs to be brandished for the child to form such an 
image. Its effects are more far-reaching than any physical punishment. 

After the repeated failures encountered by classical psychology in its 
attempts to account for the mental phenomena known as "images" — a term 
whose expressive value is confirmed by all its semantic acceptations — psy- 
choanalysis proved itself capable of accounting for the concrete reality they 
represent. That was because it began with their formative function in the sub- 
ject, and revealed that if common images make for certain individual differ- 
ences in tendencies, they do so as variations of the matrices that other specific 
images — which in my vocabulary correspond to antiquity's term "imago" — 
constitute for the "instincts" themselves. 

Among the latter images are some that represent the elective vectors of 
aggressive intentions, which they provide with an efficacy that might be called 
magical. These are the images of castration, emasculation, mutilation, dis- 
memberment, dislocation, evisceration, devouring, and bursting open of the 
body — in short, the imagos that I personally have grouped together under the 
heading "imagos of the fragmented body," a heading that certainly seems to 
be structural. 

There is a specific relationship here between man and his own body that is 
also more generally manifested in a series of social practices: from tattooing, 
incision, and circumcision rituals in primitive societies to what might be called 105 

the procrustean arbitrariness of fashion, in that it contradicts, in advanced soci- 
eties, respect for the natural forms of the human body, the idea of which is a 
latecomer to culture. 

One need but listen to the stories and games made up by two to five year 
olds, alone or together, to know that pulling off heads and cutting open bel- 
lies are spontaneous themes of their imagination, which the experience of a 
busted-up doll merely fulfills. 

One must leaf through a book of Hieronymus Bosch's work, including 
views of whole works as well as details, to see an atlas of all the aggressive 
images that torment mankind. The prevalence that psychoanalysis has dis- 
covered among them of images based on a primitive autoscopy of the oral 
organs and organs derived from the cloaca is what gives rise to the shapes of 
the demons in Bosch's work. Even the ogee of the angustiae of birth can be 

86 Ecrits 

found in the gates to the abyss through which they thrust the damned; and 
even narcissistic structure may be glimpsed in the glass spheres in which the 
exhausted partners of the "Garden of Earthly Delights" are held captive. 

These phantasmagorias crop up constantly in dreams, especially when an 
analysis appears to reflect off the backdrop of the most archaic fixations. I will 
mention here a dream recounted by one of my patients, whose aggressive drives 
manifested themselves in obsessive fantasies. In the dream he saw himself in 
a car, with the woman with whom he was having a rather difficult love-affair, 
being pursued by a flying fish whose balloon-like body was so transparent that 
one could see the horizontal level of liquid it contained: an image of vesical 
persecution of great anatomical clarity. 

These are all basic aspects of a gestalt that is characteristic of aggression in 
man and that is tied to both the symbolic character and cruel refinement of the 
weapons he builds, at least at the artisanal stage of his industry. The imagi- 
nary function of this gestalt will be clarified in what follows. 

Let us note here that to attempt a behaviorist reduction of the analytic 
process — to which a concern with rigor, quite unjustified in my view, might 
impel some of us — is to deprive the imaginary function of its most important 
subjective facts, to which favorite fantasies bear witness in consciousness and 
1 06 which have enabled us to conceptualize the imago, which plays a formative 

role in identification. 

Thesis III: The mainsprings of aggressiveness determine the rationale 
for analytic technique. 

Dialogue in itself seems to involve a renunciation of aggressiveness; from 
Socrates onward, philosophy has always placed its hope in dialogue to make 
reason triumph. And yet ever since Thrasymachus made his mad outburst at 
the beginning of that great dialogue, The Republic, verbal dialectic has all too 
often proved a failure. 

I have emphasized that the analyst cures through dialogue, curing cases of 
madness that are just as serious. What virtue, then, did Freud add to dialogue? 

The rule proposed to the patient in analysis allows him to advance in an 
intentionality that is blind to any other purpose than that of freeing him from 
suffering or ignorance of whose very limits he is unaware. 

His voice alone will be heard for a period of time whose duration depends 
on the analyst's discretion. In particular, it will soon become apparent to him, 
indeed confirmed, that the analyst refrains from responding at the level of giv- 
ing advice or making plans. This constraint seems to run counter to the desired 
end and so must be justified by some profound motive. 

Aggressiveness in Psychoanalysis 8y 

What, then, lies behind the analyst's attitude, sitting there as he does across 
from him? The concern to provide the dialogue with a participant who is as 
devoid as possible of individual characteristics. We efface ourselves, we leave 
the field in which the interest, sympathy, and reactions a speaker seeks to find 
on his interlocutor's face might be seen, we avoid all manifestations of our 
personal tastes, we conceal whatever might betray them, we depersonalize our- 
selves and strive to represent to the other an ideal of impassability. 

We are not simply expressing thereby the apathy we have had to bring about 
in ourselves to be equal to the task of understanding our subject, nor are we 
striving to make our interpretative interventions take on the oracular quality 
they must possess against this backdrop of inertia. 

We wish to avoid the trap hidden in the appeal, marked by faith's eternal 107 

pathos, the patient addresses to us. It harbors a secret within itself: "Take upon 
yourself," he tells us, "the suffering that weighs so heavily on my shoulders; 
but I can see that you are far too content, composed, and comfortable to be 
worthy of bearing it." 

What appears here as the arrogant affirmation of one 's suffering will show 
its face — and sometimes at a moment decisive enough to give rise to the kind 
of "negative therapeutic reaction" that attracted Freud 's attention — in the form 
of the resistance of amour-propre , to use the term in all the depth given it by 
La Rochefoucauld, which is often expressed thus: "I can't bear the thought of 
being freed by anyone but myself." 

Of course, due to a more unfathomable heartfelt exigency, the patient 
expects us to share in his pain. But we take our cue from his hostile reaction, 
which already made Freud wary of any temptation to play the prophet. Only 
saints are sufficiently detached from the deepest of our shared passions to avoid 
the aggressive repercussions of charity. 

As for presenting our own virtues and merits as examples, the only person 
I have ever known to resort to that was some big boss, thoroughly imbued 
with the idea, as austere as it was innocent, of his own apostolic value; I still 
recall the fury he unleashed. 

In any case, such reactions should hardly surprise us analysts, we who expose 
the aggressive motives behind all so-called philanthropic activity. 

We must, nevertheless, bring out the subject's aggressiveness toward us, 
because, as we know, aggressive intentions form the negative transference that 
is the inaugural knot of the analytic drama. 

This phenomenon represents the patient's imaginary transference onto us 
of one of the more or less archaic imagos, which degrades, diverts, or inhibits 
the cycle of a certain behavior by an effect of symbolic subduction, which has 
excluded a certain function or body part from the ego's control by an accident 

88 Ecrits 

of repression, and which has given its form to this or that agency of the per- 
sonality through an act of identification. 

It can be seen that the most incidental pretext is enough to arouse an aggres- 

108 sive intention that reactualizes the imago — which has remained permanent at 
the level of symbolic overdetermination that we call the subject's uncon- 
scious — along with its intentional correlate. 

Such a mechanism often proves to be extremely simple in hysteria: in the 
case of a girl afflicted with astasia-abasia, which for months had resisted the 
most varied forms of therapeutic suggestion, I was immediately identified with 
a constellation of the most unpleasant features that the object of a passion 
formed for her, a passion marked, moreover, by a fairly strong delusional tone. 
The underlying imago was that of her father, and it was enough for me to 
remark that she had not had his support (a lack which I knew had dominated 
her biography in a highly fanciful manner) for her to be cured of her symp- 
tom, without, it might be said, her having understood anything or her mor- 
bid passion having in any way been affected. 

Such knots are, as we know, more difficult to untie in obsessive neurosis, 
precisely because of the well-known fact that its structure is particularly 
designed to camouflage, displace, deny, divide, and muffle aggressive inten- 
tions; it does so by a defensive decomposition that is so similar in its princi- 
ples to that illustrated by the stepping and staggering technique that a number 
of my patients have themselves employed military fortification metaphors to 
describe themselves. 

As to the role of aggressive intention in phobia, it is, as it were, manifest. 

Thus it is not inadvisable to reactivate such an intention in psychoanalysis. 

What we try to avoid in our technique is to allow the patient's aggressive 
intention to find support in a current idea about us that is well enough devel- 
oped for it to become organized in such reactions as opposition, negation, osten- 
tation, and lying that our experience has shown to be characteristic modes of 
the agency known as the ego in dialogue. 

I am characterizing this agency here, not by the theoretical construction 
Freud gives of it in his metapsychology — that is, as the "perception-con- 
sciousness" system — but by what he recognized as the ego's most constant 

109 phenomenological essence in analytic experience, namely, Verneinung [nega- 
tion], urging us to detect its presence in the most general index of an inver- 
sion owing to a prior judgment. 

In short, by "ego" I designate [1] the nucleus given to consciousness — 
though it is opaque to reflection — that is marked by all the ambiguities which, 
from self-indulgence to bad faith, structure the human subject's lived experi- 
ence of the passions; [2] the "I" that, while exposing its facticity to existential 

Aggressiveness in Psychoanalysis <%> 

criticism, opposes its irreducible inertia of pretenses and misrecognition to the 
concrete problematic of the subject's realization. 

Far from attacking it head on, the analytic maieutic takes a detour that 
amounts, in the end, to inducing in the subject a guided paranoia. Indeed, one 
aspect of analytic action is to bring about the projection of what Melanie Klein 
calls "bad internal objects," which is a paranoiac mechanism certainly, but in 
this context it is highly systematized, in some sense filtered, and properly 

This is the aspect of our praxis that corresponds to the category of space, 
provided we include in it the imaginary space in which the dimension of symp- 
toms develops, which structures them like excluded islets, inert scotomas, or 
parasitic autonomisms in the person's functioning. 

Corresponding to the other dimension, the temporal, is anxiety and its 
impact, whether patent as in the phenomenon of flight or inhibition, or latent 
as when it only appears with the imago that arouses it. 

Again, let me repeat, this imago reveals itself only to the extent that our 
attitude offers the subject the pure mirror of a smooth surface. 

To understand what I'm saying here, imagine what would happen if a patient 
saw in his analyst an exact replica of himself. Everyone senses that the 
patient's excess of aggressive tension would prove such an obstacle to the man- 
ifestation of transference that its useful effect could only be brought about 
very slowly — and this is what happens in certain training analyses. If we imag- 
ine it, in the extreme case, experienced in the uncanny form characteristic of 
the apprehensions of one 's double, the situation would trigger uncontrollable 

Thesis IV: Aggressiveness is the tendency correlated with a mode of 1 10 

identification I call narcissistic, which determines the formal structure of man's 
ego and of the register of entities characteristic of his world. 

The subjective experience of analysis immediately inscribes its results in con- 
crete psychology. Let me simply indicate here what it contributes to the psy- 
chology of the emotions when it demonstrates the meaning common to states 
as diverse as fantasmatic fear, anger, active sorrow, and psychasthenic fatigue. 

To shift now from the subjectivity of intention to the notion of a tendency 
to aggress is to make a leap from the phenomenology of our experience to 

But this leap manifests nothing more than a requirement of our thought 
which, in order now to objectify the register of aggressive reactions, and given 
our inability to seriate it according to its quantitative variations, must include 

go Ecrits 

it in a formula of equivalence. That is what we do with the notion of "libido." 

The aggressive tendency proves to be fundamental in a certain series of 
significant personality states, namely, the paranoid and paranoiac psychoses. 

In my work I have emphasized that there is a correlation — due to their 
strictly parallel seriation — between the quality of aggressive reaction to be 
expected from a particular form of paranoia and the stage of mental genesis 
represented by the delusion that is symptomatic of that form. The correlation 
appears even more profound when the aggressive act dissolves the delusional 
construction; I have shown this in the case of a curable form, self-punishing 

Thus aggressive reactions form a continuous series, from the violent, 
unmotivated outburst of the act, through the whole range of belligerent 
forms, to the cold war of interpretative demonstrations. This series parallels 
another, that of imputations of harm, the explanations for which — without 
mentioning the obscure kakon to which the paranoiac attributes his discor- 
dance with all living things — run the gamut from poison (borrowed from the 
register of a highly primitive organicism), to evil spells (magic), influence 
in (telepathy), physical intrusion (lesions), diversion of intent (abuse), theft of 

secrets (dispossession), violation of privacy (profanation), injury (legal 
action), spying and intimidation (persecution), defamation and character 
assassination (prestige), and damages and exploitation (claims). 

I have shown that in each case this series — in which we find all the succes- 
sive envelopes of the person's biological and social status — is based on an orig- 
inal organization of ego and object forms that are also structurally affected 
thereby, even down to the spatial and temporal categories in which the ego 
and the object are constituted. The latter are experienced as events in a per- 
spective of mirages, as affections with something stereotypical about them that 
suspends their dialectical movement. 

Janet, who so admirably demonstrated the signification of feelings of per- 
secution as phenomenological moments of social behaviors, did not explore 
their common characteristic, which is precisely that they are constituted by 
stagnation in one of these moments, similar in strangeness to the faces of actors 
when a film is suddenly stopped in mid-frame. 

Now, this formal stagnation is akin to the most general structure of human 
knowledge, which constitutes the ego and objects as having the attributes of 
permanence, identity, and substance — in short, as entities or "things" that are 
very different from the gestalts that experience enables us to isolate in the mobil- 
ity of the field constructed according to the lines of animal desire. 

Indeed, this formal fixation, which introduces a certain difference of level, 
a certain discordance between man as organism and his Umwelt, is the very 

Aggressiveness in Psychoanalysis 91 

condition that indefinitely extends his world and his power, by giving his 
objects their instrumental polyvalence and symbolic polyphony, as well as their 
potential as weaponry. 

What I have called paranoiac knowledge is therefore shown to correspond 
in its more or less archaic forms to certain critical moments that punctuate the 
history of man's mental genesis, each representing a stage of objectifying iden- 

We can glimpse its stages in children by simple observation, in which Char- 
lotte Buhler, Elsa Kohler, and, following in their footsteps, the Chicago School 
have revealed several levels of significant manifestations, though only ana- 112 

lytic experience can give them their exact value by making it possible to rein- 
tegrate subjective relations in them. 

The first level shows us that the very young child 's experience of itself — 
insofar as it is related to the child's semblable — develops on the basis of a sit- 
uation that is experienced as undifferentiated. Thus, around the age of eight 
months, in confrontations between children — which, if they are to be fruit- 
ful, must be between children whose difference in age is no more than two and 
a half months — we see gestures of fictitious actions by which one subject 
renews the other's imperfect gesture by confusing their distinct application, 
and synchronies of spectacular capture that are all the more remarkable as they 
precede the complete coordination of the motor systems they involve. 

Thus the aggressiveness that is manifested in the retaliations of slaps and 
blows cannot be regarded solely as a playful manifestation of the exercise of 
strength and their employment in getting to know the body. It must be under- 
stood within a broader realm of coordination: one that will subordinate the 
functions of tonic postures and vegetative tension to a social relativity, whose 
prevalence in the expressive constitution of human emotions has been remark- 
ably well emphasized by Wallon. 

Furthermore, I believed I myself could highlight the fact that, on such occa- 
sions, the child anticipates at the mental level the conquest of his own body's 
functional unity, which is still incomplete at the level of volitional motricity 
at that point in time. 

What we have here is a first capture by the image in which the first moment 
of the dialectic of identifications is sketched out. It is linked to a gestalt phe- 
nomenon, the child's very early perception of the human form, a form which, 
as we know, holds the child's interest right from the first months of life and, 
in the case of the human face, right from the tenth day. But what demonstrates 
the phenomenon of recognition, implying subjectivity, are the signs of tri- 
umphant jubilation and the playful self-discovery that characterize the child's 
encounter with his mirror image starting in the sixth month. This behavior 

92 Ecrits 

113 contrasts sharply with the indifference shown by the very animals that per- 
ceive this image — the chimpanzee, for example — once they have tested its van- 
ity as an object; and it is even more noteworthy as it occurs at an age when the 
child lags behind the chimpanzee in instrumental intelligence, only catching 
up with the latter at eleven months of age. 

What I have called the "mirror stage" is of interest because it manifests the 
affective dynamism by which the subject primordially identifies with the visual 
gestalt of his own body. In comparison with the still very profound lack of 
coordination in his own motor functioning, that gestalt is an ideal unity, a salu- 
tary imago. Its value is heightened by all the early distress resulting from the 
child's intra-organic and relational discordance during the first six months of 
life, when he bears the neurological and humoral signs of a physiological pre- 
maturity at birth. 

It is this capture by the imago of the human form — rather than Einfiihlung, 
the absence of which is abundantly clear in early childhood — that dominates 
the whole dialectic of the child's behavior in the presence of his semblable 
between six months and two and a half years of age. Throughout this period, 
one finds emotional reactions and articulated evidence of a normal transitivism. 
A child who beats another child says that he himself was beaten; a child who 
sees another child fall, cries. Similarly, it is by identifying with the other that 
he experiences the whole range of bearing and display reactions — whose struc- 
tural ambivalence is clearly revealed in his behaviors, the slave identifying with 
the despot, the actor with the spectator, the seduced with the seducer. 

There is a sort of structural crossroads here to which we must accommo- 
date our thinking if we are to understand the nature of aggressiveness in man 
and its relation to the formalism of his ego and objects. It is in this erotic rela- 
tionship, in which the human individual fixates on an image that alienates him 
from himself, that we find the energy and the form from which the organiza- 
tion of the passions that he will call his ego originates. 

Indeed, this form crystallizes in the subject's inner conflictual tension, which 
leads to the awakening of his desire for the object of the other's desire: here 
the primordial confluence precipitates into aggressive competition, from 
which develops the triad of other people, ego, and object. Spangling the space 
of spectacular communion, this triad is inscribed there according to its own 

1 14 formalism, and it so completely dominates the affect oiEinfilhlung that a child 
at that age may not recognize the people he knows best if they appear in com- 
pletely different surroundings. 

But if the ego seems to be marked, right from the outset, by this aggressive 
relativity — which minds starved for objectivity might equate with an animal's 
emotional erections when it is distracted by a desire in the course of its exper- 

Aggressiveness in Psychoanalysis 93 

imental conditioning — how can we escape the conclusion that each great 
instinctual metamorphosis, punctuating the individual's life, throws its delim- 
itation back into question, composed as it is of the conjunction of the subject's 
history with the unthinkable innateness of his desire? 

This is why man's ego is never reducible to his lived identity, except at a 
limit that even the greatest geniuses have never been able to approach; and 
why, in the depressive disruptions constituted by reversals experienced due to 
a sense of inferiority, the ego essentially engenders deadly negations that freeze 
it in its formalism. "What happens to me has nothing to do with what I am. 
There's nothing about you that is worthwhile." 

Thus the two moments, when the subject negates himself and when he 
accuses the other, become indistinguishable; and we see here the paranoiac 
structure of the ego that finds its analog in the fundamental negations high- 
lighted by Freud in the three delusions: jealousy, erotomania, and interpreta- 
tion. It is the very delusion of the misanthropic beautiful soul, casting out onto 
the world the disorder that constitutes his being. 

Subjective experience must be fully accredited if we are to recognize the 
central knot of ambivalent aggressiveness, which at the present stage of our 
culture is given to us in the dominant form of resentment, including even its 
most archaic aspects in the child. Thus, Saint Augustine, because he lived at 
a similar time, without having to suffer from a "behaviorist" resistance — in 
the sense in which I use the term — foreshadowed psychoanalysis by giving 
us an exemplary image of such behavior in the following terms: "Vidi ego et 
expertus sum %e lantern parvulum: nondum loquebatur et intuebatur pallidus amaro 
aspectu conlactaneum suum " ("I myself have seen and known an infant to be 
jealous even though it could not speak. It became pale, and cast bitter looks 
on its foster-brodier"). Thus Augustine forever ties the situation of spectac- 
ular absorption (the child observed), the emotional reaction (pale), and the 
reactivation of images of primordial frustration (with an envenomed look) — 115 

which are the psychical and somatic coordinates of the earliest aggressive- 
ness — to the infant (preverbal) stage of early childhood. 

Only Melanie Klein, studying children on the verge of language, dared to 
project subjective experience into that earlier period; observation, nevertheless, 
enables us to affirm its role there in the simple fact, for example, that a child 
who does not yet speak reacts differently to punishment than to brutality. 

Through Klein we have become aware of the function of the imaginary 
primordial enclosure formed by the imago of the mother's body; through her 
we have the mapping, drawn by children's own hands, of the mother's inner 
empire, and the historical atlas of the internal divisions in which the imagos 
of the father and siblings — whether real or virtual — and the subject's own 

94 Ecrits 

voracious aggression dispute their deleterious hold over her sacred regions. 
We have also become aware of the persistence in the subject of the shadow of 
"bad internal objects," related to some accidental "association" (to use a term 
concerning which we should emphasize the organic meaning analytic experi- 
ence gives it, as opposed to the abstract meaning it retains from Humean ide- 
ology). Hence we can understand by what structural means re-evoking certain 
imaginary personae and reproducing certain situational inferiorities may dis- 
concert the adult's voluntary functions in the most rigorously predictable 
way — namely, by their fragmenting impact on the imago involved in the ear- 
liest identification. 

By showing us the primordial nature of the "depressive position," the 
extremely archaic subjectivization of a kakon, Melanie Klein pushes back the 
limits within which we can see the subjective function of identification at work, 
and she especially enables us to situate the first superego formation as 
extremely early. 

But it is important to delimit the orbit within which the following relations, 
some of which have yet to be elucidated, are situated in our theoretical work — 
guilt tension, oral harmfulness, hypochondriacal fixation, not to mention pri- 
mordial masochism which I am excluding from my remarks here — in order 
to isolate the notion of an aggressiveness linked to the narcissistic relationship 
1 1 6 and to the structures of systematic misrecognition and objectification that char- 

acterize ego formation. 

A specific satisfaction, based on the integration of an original organic chaos 
\desarroi\ corresponds to the Urbildoi this formation, alienating as it may be 
due to its function of rendering foreign. This satisfaction must be conceived 
of in the dimension of a vital dehiscence constitutive of man and makes 
unthinkable the idea of an environment that is preformed for him; it is a "neg- 
ative" libido that enables the Heraclitean notion of Discord — which the Eph- 
esian held to be prior to harmony — to shine once more. 

Thus, there is no need to look any further to find the source of the energy 
the ego borrows to put in the service of the "reality principle," a question Freud 
raises regarding repression. 

This energy indubitably comes from "narcissistic passion" — provided one 
conceives of the ego according to the subjective notion I am proposing here 
as consonant with the register of analytic experience. The theoretical diffi- 
culties encountered by Freud seem, in fact, to stem from the mirage of objec- 
tification, inherited from classical psychology, constituted by the idea of the 
"perception-consciousness" system, in which the existence of everything the 
ego neglects, scotomizes, and misrecognizes in the sensations that make it react 

Aggressiveness in Psychoanalysis $5 

to reality, and of everything it doesn't know, exhausts, and ties down in the 
meanings it receives from language, suddenly seems to be overlooked — a sur- 
prising oversight on the part of the man who succeeded in forcing open the 
borders of the unconscious with the power of his dialectic. 

Just as the superego's insane oppression lies at the root of the well-founded 
imperatives of moral conscience, mad passion — specific to man, stamping his 
image on reality — is the obscure foundation of the will's rational mediations. 

The notion of aggressiveness as a tension correlated with narcissistic struc- 
ture in the subject's becoming allows us to encompass in a very simply for- 
mulated function all sorts of accidents and atypicalities in that becoming. 

I shall indicate here how I conceive of its dialectical link with the function 
of the Oedipus complex. In its normal form, its function is that of sublima- 
tion, which precisely designates an identificatory reshaping of the subject 117 
and — as Freud wrote when he felt the need for a "topographical" coordina- 
tion of psychical dynamisms — a secondary identification by introjection of the 
imago of the parent of the same sex. 

The energy for that identification is provided by the first biological surge 
of genital libido. But it is clear that the structural effect of identification with 
a rival is not self-evident, except at the level of fable, and can only be con- 
ceptualized if the way is paved for it by a primary identification that structures 
the subject as rivaling with himself. In fact, a note of biological impotence is 
met with again here — as is the effect of anticipation characteristic of the human 
psyche's genesis — in the fixation of an imaginary "ideal," which, as analysis 
has shown, determines whether or not the "instinct" conforms to the indi- 
vidual's physiological sex. A point, let it be said in passing, whose anthropo- 
logical import cannot be too highly stressed. But what interests me here is what 
I shall refer to as the "pacifying" function of the ego-ideal: the connection 
between its libidinal normativeness and a cultural normativeness, bound up 
since the dawn of history with the imago of the father. Here, obviously, lies 
the import that Freud's work, Totem and Taboo , still has, despite the mythical 
circularity that vitiates it, insofar as from a mythological event — the killing 
of the father — it derives the subjective dimension that gives this event its mean- 
ing: guilt. 

Indeed, Freud shows us that the need for a form of participation, which neu- 
tralizes the conflict inscribed after killing him in the situation of rivalry among 
the brothers, is the basis for identification with the paternal totem. Oedipal 
identification is thus the identification by which the subject transcends the 
aggressiveness constitutive of the first subjective individuation. I have stressed 

S)6 Ecrits 

elsewhere that it constitutes a step in the establishment of the distance by which, 
with feelings akin to respect, a whole affective assumption of one 's fellow man 
is brought about. 

Only the anti-dialectical mentality of a culture which, dominated as it is by 
objectifying ends, tends to reduce all subjective activity to the ego's being, can 
justify Von den Steinen's astonishment when confronted by a Bororo who said, 

118 "I'm an ara." All the "primitive mind" sociologists scurry about trying to 
fathom this profession of identity, which is no more surprising upon reflec- 
tion than declaring, "I'm a doctor" or "I'm a citizen of the French Republic," 
and certainly presents fewer logical difficulties than claiming, "I'm a man," 
which at most can mean no more than, "I'm like the person who, in recogniz- 
ing him to be a man, I constitute as someone who can recognize me as a man." 
In the final analysis, these various formulations can be understood only in ref- 
erence to the truth of "I is an other," less dazzling to the poet's intuition than 
it is obvious from the psychoanalyst's viewpoint. 

Who, if not us, will call back into question the objective status of this "I," 
which a historical evolution peculiar to our culture tends to confuse with the 
subject? The specific impact of this anomaly on every level of language 
deserves to be displayed, and first and foremost as regards the first person as 
grammatical subject in our languages [langues] — the "I love" that hyposta- 
sizes a tendency in a subject who denies it. An impossible mirage in linguistic 
forms, among which the most ancient are to be found, and in which the sub- 
ject appears fundamentally in the position of a determinative or instrumental 
of the action. 

Let us not pursue here the critique of all the abuses of the cogito ergo sum, 
recalling instead that, in analytic experience, the ego represents the center of 
all resistances to the treatment of symptoms. 

It was inevitable that analysis, after emphasizing the reintegration of ten- 
dencies excluded by the ego — those tendencies underlying the symptoms it 
tackled at first, most of which were related to failed Oedipal identification — 
should eventually discover the "moral" dimension of the problem. 

Parallel to that, what came to the fore were, on the one hand, the role played 
by the aggressive tendencies in the structure of symptoms and personality and, 
on the other, all sorts of "uplifting" conceptions of the liberated libido, one of 
the first of which can be attributed to French psychoanalysts under the head- 
ing of "oblativity." 

It is, in fact, clear that genital libido operates by blindly going beyond the 
individual for the sake of the species and that its sublimating effects in the Oedi- 
pal crisis are at the root of the whole process of man's cultural subordination. 

119 Nevertheless, one cannot overemphasize the irreducible character of narcis- 

Aggressiveness in Psychoanalysis ,97 

sistic structure and the ambiguity of a notion that tends to misrecognize the 
constancy of aggressive tension in all moral life that involves subjection to this 
structure: for no amount of oblativity could free altruism from it. This is why 
La Rochefoucauld could formulate his maxim, in which his rigor concurs with 
the fundamental theme of his thought, on the incompatibility between mar- 
riage and delight. 

We would be allowing the cutting edge of analytic experience to become 
dull if we deluded ourselves, if not our patients, into believing in some sort of 
pre-established harmony that would free social conformity — made possible 
by the reduction of symptoms — of its tendency to induce aggressiveness in 
the subject. 

Theoreticians in the Middle Ages showed a rather different kind of pene- 
tration when they debated whether love could be understood in terms of a 
"physical" theory or an "ecstatic" theory, both of which involved the reab- 
sorption of man's ego, the one by its reintegration into a universal good, the 
other by the subject's effusion toward an object devoid of alterity. 

In all of an individual's genetic phases and at every degree of a person's 
human accomplishment, we find this narcissistic moment in the subject in a 
before in which he must come to terms with a libidinal frustration and in an 
after in which he transcends himself in a normative sublimation. 

This conception allows us to understand the aggressiveness involved in the 
effects of all the subject's regressions, aborted undertakings, and refusals of 
typical development, especially at the level of sexual realization — and more 
precisely within each of the great phases that the libidinal metamorphoses bring 
about in human life, whose major function analysis has demonstrated: wean- 
ing, the Oedipal stage, puberty, maturity, and motherhood, not to mention the 
involutional climacteric. I have often said that the emphasis initially placed in 
psychoanalytic doctrine on the Oedipal conflict's aggressive retortions in the 
subject corresponded to the fact that the effects of the complex were first 
glimpsed in failed attempts to resolve it. 

There is no need to emphasize that a coherent theory of the narcissistic 
phase clarifies the ambivalence peculiar to the "partial drives" of scotophilia, 1 20 

sadomasochism, and homosexuality, as well as the stereotypical, ceremonial 
formalism of the aggressiveness that is manifested in them. I am talking here 
about the often barely "realized" apprehension of other people in the practice 
of certain of these perversions, their subjective value actually being very dif- 
ferent from that ascribed to them in the otherwise very striking existential 
reconstructions Sartre provided. 

I should also like to mention in passing that the decisive function I ascribe 
to the imago of one 's own body in the determination of the narcissistic phase 

S)8 Ecrits 

enables us to understand the clinical relation between congenital anomalies of 
functional lateralization (left-handedness) and all forms of inversion of sex- 
ual and cultural normalization. This reminds us of the role attributed to gym- 
nastics in the "beautiful and good" ideal of education among the Ancient 
Greeks and leads us to the social thesis with which I will conclude. 

Thesis V: This notion of aggressiveness as one of the intentional coordinates 

of the human ego, especially as regards the category of space, allows us to 

conceive of its role in modern neurosis and in the malaise in civilisation. 

Here I want to merely sketch out a perspective regarding the verdicts analytic 
experience allows us to come to in the present social order. The preeminence 
of aggressiveness in our civilization would already be sufficiently demonstrated 
by the fact that it is usually confused in everyday morality with the virtue of 
strength. Quite rightly understood as indicative of ego development, aggres- 
siveness is regarded as indispensable in social practice and is so widely 
accepted in our mores that, in order to appreciate its cultural peculiarity, one 
must become imbued with the meaning and efficient virtues of a practice like 
that ofyang in the public and private morality of the Chinese. 

Were it not superfluous, the prestige of the idea of the struggle for life would 
be sufficiently attested to by the success of a theory that was able to make us 
endorse a notion of selection based solely on the animal's conquest of space 
121 as a valid explanation for the developments of life. Indeed, Darwin's success 

seems to derive from the fact that he projected the predations of Victorian 
society and the economic euphoria that sanctioned for that society the social 
devastation it initiated on a planetary scale, and that he justified its predations 
with the image of a laissez-faire system in which the strongest predators com- 
pete for their natural prey. 

Before Darwin, however, Hegel had provided the definitive theory of the 
specific function of aggressiveness in human ontology, seeming to prophesy 
the iron law of our own time. From the conflict between Master and Slave, he 
deduced the entire subjective and objective progress of our history, revealing 
in its crises the syntheses represented by the highest forms of the status of the 
person in the West, from the Stoic to the Christian, and even to the future cit- 
izen of the Universal State. 

Here the natural individual is regarded as nil, since the human subject is 
nothing, in effect, before the absolute Master that death is for him. The satis- 
faction of human desire is possible only when mediated by the other's desire 
and labor. While it is the recognition of man by man that is at stake in the con- 
flict between Master and Slave, this recognition is based on a radical negation 

Aggressiveness in Psychoanalysis 9$ 

of natural values, whether expressed in the master's sterile tyranny or in work's 
productive tyranny 

The support this profound doctrine lent to the slave 's constructive Sparta- 
cism, recreated by the barbarity of the Darwinian century, is well known. 

The relativization of our sociology by the scientific collection of the cul- 
tural forms we are destroying in the world — and the analyses, bearing truly 
psychoanalytic marks, in which Plato's wisdom shows us the dialectic com- 
mon to the passions of the soul and of the city— can enlighten us as to the rea- 
son for this barbarity Namely, to employ the jargon that corresponds to our 
approaches to man's subjective needs, the increasing absence of all the satu- 
rations of the superego and ego-ideal that occur in all kinds of organic forms 
in traditional societies, forms that extend from the rituals of everyday inti- 
macy to the periodical festivals in which the community manifests itself. We 
no longer know them except in their most obviously degraded guises. Fur- 
thermore, in abolishing the cosmic polarity of the male and female principles, 
our society is experiencing the full psychological impact of the modern phe- 122 

nomenon known as the "battle of the sexes." Ours is an immense community, 
midway between a "democratic" anarchy of the passions and their hopeless 
leveling out by the "great winged hornet" of narcissistic tyranny; it is clear 
that the promotion of the ego in our existence is leading, in conformity with 
the utilitarian conception of man that reinforces it, to an ever greater realiza- 
tion of man as an individual, in other words, in an isolation of the soul that is 
ever more akin to its original dereliction. 

Correlatively, it seems — I mean for reasons whose historical contingency 
is based on a necessity that certain of my considerations make it possible to per- 
ceive — we are engaged in a technological enterprise on the scale of the entire 
species. The question is whether the conflict between Master and Slave will 
find its solution in the service of the machine, for which a psychotechnics, that 
is already yielding a rich harvest of ever more precise applications, will strive 
to provide race-car drivers and guards for regulating power stations. 

The notion of the role of spatial symmetry in man's narcissistic structure 
is essential in laying the groundwork for a psychological analysis of space, 
whose place I can merely indicate here. Animal psychology has shown us that 
the individual's relation to a particular spatial field is socially mapped in cer- 
tain species, in a way that raises it to the category of subjective membership. 
I would say that it is the subjective possibility of the mirror projection of such 
a field into the other's field that gives human space its originally "geometri- 
cal" structure, a structure I would willingly characterize as kaleidoscopic. 

Such, at least, is the space in which the imagery of the ego develops, and 
which intersects the objective space of reality. But does it provide us a secure 

ioo Ecrits 

basis? Already in the Lebensraum ("living space") in which human competi- 
tion grows ever keener, an observer of our species from outer space would 
conclude we possess needs to escape with very odd results. But doesn't con- 
ceptual extension, to which we believed we had reduced reality [reel], later 
seem to refuse to lend its support to the physicist's thinking? Having extended 

123 our grasp to the farthest reaches of matter, won't this "realized" space — which 
makes the great imaginary spaces in which the free games of the ancient sages 
roamed seem illusory to us — thus vanish in turn in a roar of the universal 

Whatever the case may be, we know how our adaptation to these exigen- 
cies proceeds, and that war is increasingly proving to be the inevitable and 
necessary midwife of all our organizational progress. The adaptation of 
adversaries, opposed in their social systems, certainly seems to be progress- 
ing toward a confluence of forms, but one may well wonder whether it is moti- 
vated by agreement as to their necessity, or by the kind of identification Dante, 
in the Inferno, depicts in the image of a deadly kiss. 

Moreover, it doesn't seem that the human individual, as the material for 
such a struggle, is absolutely flawless. And the detection of "bad internal 
objects," responsible for reactions (that may prove extremely costly in terms 
of equipment) of inhibition and headlong flight — which we have recently 
learned to use in the selection of shock, fighter, parachute, and commando 
troops — proves that war, after having taught us a great deal about the gene- 
sis of the neuroses, is perhaps proving too demanding in its need for ever more 
neutral subjects to serve an aggression in which feeling is undesirable. 

Nevertheless, we have a few psychological truths to contribute here too: 
namely, the extent to which the ego's supposed "instinct of self-preservation" 
willingly gives way before the temptation to dominate space, and above all the 
extent to which the fear of death, the "absolute Master" — presumed to exist in 
consciousness by a whole philosophical tradition from Hegel onward — is psy- 
chologically subordinate to the narcissistic fear of harm to one 's own body. 

I do not think it was futile to have highlighted the relation between the spa- 
tial dimension and a subjective tension, which — in the malaise of civilization — 
intersects with the tension of anxiety, approached so humanely by Freud, and 
which develops in the temporal dimension. I would willingly shed light on the 
latter, too, using the contemporary significations of two philosophies that 
would seem to correspond to the philosophies I just mentioned: that of Berg- 
son, owing to its naturalistic inadequacy, and that of Kierkegaard owing to its 
dialectical signification. 

Only at the intersection of these two tensions should one envisage the 

1 24 assumption by man of his original fracturing, by which it might be said that at 

Aggressiveness in Psychoanalysis 101 

every instant he constitutes his world by committing suicide, and the psycho- 
logical experience of which Freud had the audacity to formulate as the "death 
instinct, " however paradoxical its expression in biological terms may be. 

In the "emancipated" man of modern society, this fracturing reveals that 
his formidable crack goes right to the very depths of his being. It is a self- 
punishing neurosis, with hysterical /hypochondriacal symptoms of its func- 
tional inhibitions, psychasthenic forms of its derealizations of other people 
and of the world, and its social consequences of failure and crime. It is this 
touching victim, this innocent escapee who has thrown off the shackles that 
condemn modern man to the most formidable social hell, whom we take in 
when he comes to us; it is this being of nothingness for whom, in our daily 
task, we clear anew the path to his meaning in a discreet fraternity — a fra- 
ternity to which we never measure up. 


1. Apart from the first line, this text is reproduced here in its original form. 

i25 A Theoretical Introduction to the Functions 
of Psychoanalysis in Criminology 

Presentation Given at the Thirteenth Conference of 
French- Speaking Psychoanalysts (May 29, 1950) 

Written in Collaboration with Michel Cenac 

L On the Motor Force of Truth in the Human Sciences 

While theory in the physical sciences has never really escaped from the 
requirement of internal coherence that is the very motor force of knowledge, 
the human sciences, being embodied as behaviors in the very reality of their 
object, cannot elude the question of the meaning of these behaviors or ensure 
that the answer to this question need not be in terms of truth. 

The fact that human reality implies a process of revelation leads certain 
people to think of history as a dialectic inscribed in matter; it is a truth that no 
"behaviorist"* ritual engaged in by the subject to protect his object can cas- 
trate of its creative and deadly tip, and it makes scientists themselves, who are 
devoted to "pure" knowledge, primarily responsible. 

No one knows this better than psychoanalysts who, in their understanding 
of what their subjects confide to them, as in their handling of the behaviors 
that are conditioned by analytic technique, work on the basis of a form of rev- 
elation whose truth conditions its efficacy. 

Now isn't the search for truth what constitutes the object of criminology 
in the judicial realm and also what unifies its two facets: the truth of the crime, 
which is the facet that concerns the police, and the truth of the criminal, the 
anthropological facet? 

The question we will address today is: What can the technique that guides 
the analyst's dialogue with the subject and the psychological notions that ana- 

A Theoretical Introduction to the Functions of Psychoanalysis in Criminology 103 

lytic experience has defined contribute to this search for truth? We are less 
interested in indicating analysis' contribution to the study of delinquency, 126 

which was discussed in the other presentations here, than in laying out its legit- 
imate limits, and are certainly not interested in propagating the letter of ana- 
lytic doctrine without concern for method, but rather in rethinking it, as we 
are advised to constantly do, in relation to a new object. 

77. On the Sociological Reality of Crime and Law and on the Relation 
of Psychoanalysis to their Dialectical Foundation 

Neither crime nor criminals are objects that can be conceptualized apart from 
their sociological context. 

The statement that the "law makes the sin" remains true outside the escha- 
tological perspective of Grace in which Saint Paul formulated it. 

It is scientifically verified by the observation that there is no society that 
does not include positive law, whether traditional or written, common law or 
civil law. Nor is there any society in which we do not find all the degrees of 
transgression of the law that define crime. 

Supposed "unconscious," "forced," "intuitive" obedience by primitive 
man to the group's rules is an ethnological conception deriving from an imag- 
inary insistence that has cast a shadow on many other conceptions of "ori- 
gins," but it is just as mythical as they are. 

Every society, lastly, manifests the relationship between crime and law by 
punishments whose infliction, regardless of the forms it takes, requires sub- 
jective assent. Whether the criminal himself actually inflicts the punishment 
that the law requires as the price to be paid for his crime — as in the case of incest 
between matrilineal cousins on the Trobriand Islands, whose outcome Mali- 
nowski recounts in his book, Crime and Custom in Savage Society , which is essen- 
tial on this subject (and regardless of the various psychological motives for this 
act or even the vindictive oscillations that the curses of he who commits sui- 
cide can engender in the group) — or whether the sanction stipulated by a code 
of criminal law includes a procedure involving widely varied social systems, 
subjective assent is necessary to the very signification of the punishment. 

The beliefs by which this punishment is explained in the individual, and the 
institutions by which the punishment is inflicted in the group, allow us to define 1 27 

in any given society what we call "responsibility" in our own society. 

But the responsible entity is not always equivalent. Let us say that if, orig- 
inally, it is the society as a whole (a society is always self-contained in theory, 
as ethnologists have emphasized) that is considered to be destabilized by the 
action of one of its members and that must be set right, this member is held 

104 Ecrits 

individually responsible to so small an extent that the law often requires sat- 
isfaction at the expense either of one of his partisans or of the whole of an 
"ingroup"* that he is part of. 

It sometimes even happens that a society considers itself to be so impaired 
in its structure that it takes steps to exclude its ills in the form of a scapegoat, 
or even to regenerate itself by resorting to something external. We see here 
a collective or mystical responsibility, of which our own mores contain 
traces, assuming this form of responsibility is not staging a return for oppo- 
site reasons. 

But even in cases in which the punishment strikes only the individual per- 
petrator of a crime, he is not [in all cases] held responsible with respect to the 
same function or, as it were, the same image of himself. This is evident when 
we reflect upon the difference between a person who has to answer for his acts 
before a judge who represents the Holy Office and a person who does so before 
a judge who presides over the People 's Court. 

It is here that psychoanalysis, with the agencies that it distinguishes in the 
modern individual, can shed light on vacillations in the contemporary notion 
of responsibility and the related advent of an objectification of crime that it 
can collaborate on. 

While psychoanalysis cannot, since its experience is limited to the individ- 
ual, claim to grasp the totality of any sociological object or even the whole set 
of forces currently operating in our society, the fact remains that it discovered 
in analytic experience relational tensions that seem to play a basic role in all 
societies, as if the discontent in civilization went so far as to lay bare the very 
meeting point of nature and culture. We can extend analysis' equations to cer- 
tain human sciences that can utilize them — especially, as we shall see, to crim- 
inology — provided we perform the correct transformation. 

Let us add that if reliance on the subject's confession, which is one of the 
keys to criminological truth, and reintegration of the subject into the social 
128 community, which is one of the goals of its application, seem to find an espe- 

cially favorable form in analytic dialogue, it is above all because this dialogue, 
which can be continued until it reaches the most radical significations, inter- 
sects with the universal — the universal that is included in language and that, 
far from being eliminable from anthropology, constitutes its very foundation 
and goal. For psychoanalysis is merely an extension of anthropology in its 
technique that explores in the individual the import of the dialectic which scands 
our society's creations and in which Saint Paul's statement finds anew its 
absolute truth. 

To he who would ask where our remarks are heading, we would respond, 
at the risk, willingly accepted, of eliminating the clinician's smugness [suffi- 

A Theoretical Introduction to the Functions of Psychoanalysis in Criminology io5 

sance] and preventionistic pharisaism from them, by referring him to one of 
Plato's dialogues that recount the deeds of the hero of dialectic, especially to 
the Gorgias, whose subtitle, which invokes rhetoric and is well designed to dis- 
suade our uncultivated contemporaries from studying it, harbors a veritable 
treatise on the motives of the Just and the Unjust. 

In the Gorgias, Socrates refutes infatuation with the Master, which is incar- 
nated in a free man of Athens, whose limits are marked by the reality of the 
Slave. This form marks the shift to the free man of Wisdom, by admitting the 
absolute nature of Justice, he being trained in it solely by virtue of language 
in the Interlocutor's maieutic. Thus Socrates — by making the Master perceive 
the dialectic (which is bottomless like the Danaids' vessel) of man's passions 
for power and recognize the law of his own political being in the City's injus- 
tice — brings him to bow before the eternal myths that express the meaning of 
punishment, as a way of making amends for the individual and of setting an 
example for the group, while he himself, in the name of the same universal, 
accepts his own destiny and submits in advance to the insanely harsh verdict 
of the City that makes him a man. 

It is worth recalling the historical moment at which a tradition was born 
that conditioned the appearance of all our sciences and that Freud firmly rooted 
his work in when he proffered with poignant confidence: "The voice of the 
intellect is a soft one, but it does not rest till it has gained a hearing." We think 
we hear in this a muffled echo of Socrates' own voice addressing Callicles, 
when he opines that "Philosophy always says the same thing." 

///. On Crime as Expressing the Symbolism of the Superego as a 129 

Psychopathological Agency: Although Psychoanalysis Unreali^es [Irrealise] 
Crime, It Does Not Dehumanize the Criminal 

While we cannot even grasp the concrete reality of crime without relating it to 
a symbolism whose actual forms combine harmoniously in society, but which 
is inscribed in the radical structures that language unconsciously transmits, 
psychoanalytic experience has demonstrated just how extensively, to what for- 
merly unknown limits, this first symbolism reverberates in individuals, in their 
physiology as well as in their conduct, by studying its pathogenic effects. 

Thus it was by starting with one of the relational significations that the psy- 
chology of "intellectual syntheses," in its reconstruction of individual func- 
tions, had located at the earliest possible stage, that Freud inaugurated a form 
of psychology that has bizarrely been called "depth psychology," no doubt 
because of the utterly superficial scope of what it replaced. 

Psychoanalysis boldly designated these pathogenic effects, whose mean- 

io6 Ecrits 

ing it was discovering, by the feeling that corresponded to them in lived expe- 
rience: guilt. 

Nothing can better demonstrate the importance of the Freudian revolution 
than the use (technical or everyday, implicit or rigorous, avowed or surrepti- 
tious) that has been made, in psychology, of this now truly ubiquitous cate- 
gory, which was thoroughly neglected before — nothing if not the strange 
attempt by certain people to reduce guilt to "genetic" or "objective" forms, 
supposedly guaranteed by a kind of "behaviorist" experimentalism that would 
have been exhausted long ago had it actually forced itself not to read in human 
actions the significations that specify them as human. 

We are also beholden to Freud for having brought the notion of the first 
situation into psychology so that it could prosper there, in the course of time — 
not as an abstract confrontation sketching out a relationship, but as a dramatic 
crisis that is resolved in a structure — this first situation being that of crime in 
130 its two most abhorrent forms, incest and parricide, whose shadow engenders 

all the pathogenesis of the Oedipus complex. 

We can understand why Freud, the physician, having received in the field 
of psychology such a significant contribution from the social realm, was 
tempted to return the favor, and why he wanted to demonstrate the origin of 
universal Law in the primal crime in Totem and Taboo in 1912. Whatever crit- 
icism his method in that book might be open to, what was essential was his 
recognition that man began with law and crime, after Freud the clinician had 
shown that their significations sustained everything right down to the very 
form of the individual — not only in his value to the other but in his erection 
for himself. 

This is how the concept of the superego came into being, first based on the 
effects of unconscious censorship explaining previously identified psy- 
chopathological structures, soon shedding light on the anomalies of everyday 
life, and finally being correlated with the simultaneous discovery of an 
immense morbidity and of its psychogenic roots: character neurosis, failure 
mechanisms, sexual impotence, and "der gehemmte Mensch." 

The modern face of man was thus revealed and it contrasted strangely with 
the prophecies of late nineteenth-century thinkers; it seemed pathetic when com- 
pared with both the illusions nourished by libertarians and the moralists' wor- 
ries inspired by man's emancipation from religious beliefs and the weakening 
of his traditional ties. To the concupiscence gleaming in old man Karamazov's 
eyes when he questioned his son — "God is dead, thus all is permitted" — mod- 
ern man, the very one who dreams of the nihilistic suicide of Dostoevsky's 
hero or forces himself to blow up Nietzsche 's inflatable superman, replies with 
all his ills and all his deeds: "God is dead, nothing is permitted anymore." 

A Theoretical Introduction to the Functions of Psychoanalysis in Criminology ioj 

These ills and deeds all bear the signification of self-punishment. Will it 
thus be necessary to see all criminals as self-punishing? For, according to the 
legislator's icy humor, no one is supposed to be ignorant of the law, and thus 
everyone can foresee its repercussions and must be considered to be seeking 
out its blows. 

This ironic remark, by obliging us to define what psychoanalysis recog- 
nizes as crimes and offenses [delits] emanating from the superego, should allow 
us to formulate a critique of the scope of this notion in anthropology. 

Consider the remarkable first observations with which Franz Alexander and 1 3 1 

Hugo Staub brought psychoanalysis into criminology. Their content is con- 
vincing, whether it concerns "the attempted homicide by a neurotic," or the 
odd thefts by a medical student (who did not stop until he was imprisoned by 
the Berlin police and who, rather than earn the diploma to which his knowl- 
edge and real gifts gave him the right, preferred to exercise them by breaking 
the law), or even "the man obsessed with car trips." Consider anew Marie Bona- 
parte 's analysis of "The Case of Mrs. Lefebvre." Here the morbid structure of 
the crime and offenses is obvious — the forced way in which the crimes were 
carried out, the stereotypy seen in their repetition, the provocative style of the 
defense and the confession, the incomprehensibility of the motives — all of this 
confirms "coercion by a force that the subject was unable to resist," and the 
judges in all these cases came to this same conclusion. 

These behaviors become perfectly clear, however, in light of an Oedipal 
interpretation. But what makes them morbid is their symbolic character. Their 
psychopathological structure is not found in the criminal situation that they 
express, but in their unreal mode of expression. 

To fully explain this, let us contrast these behaviors with something that is 
a constant element in the annals of armies and that derives its full import from 
the very broad and yet narrow range of asocial elements in our population 
from which we have, for over a century, recruited defenders of our homeland 
and even of our social order. We are referring to the propensity found in mil- 
itary units, on the day of glory that places them in contact with the enemy 
civilian population, to rape one or more women in the presence of a male who 
is preferably old and has first been rendered powerless. There is nothing to 
indicate that the individuals who engage in such an act morally differ — either 
before or afterward, as sons or husbands, fathers or citizens — from anyone 
else. This simple act might well be described as a random news item [fait . . . 
divers] owing to the diverse quantity of credence it is lent depending on its 
source — and even, strictly speaking, as a divertissement owing to the mate- 
rial that this diversity offers up to propaganda. 

We say that it is a real crime, even though it is committed in a precisely 132 

io8 Ecrits 

Oedipal form, and the perpetrators would be justly punished for it if the 
heroic conditions under which it is considered to have been carried out did 
not most often place responsibility for it on the group to which the individu- 
als belong. 

Let us thus concur with Marcel Mauss' clear formulations, which his recent 
death has brought once again to our attention: The structures of society are 
symbolic; individuals, insofar as they are normal, use them in real behaviors; 
insofar as they are mentally ill [psychopathe\ they express them by symbolic 

But it is obvious that the symbolism thus expressed can only be fragmented; 
at most, one can assert that this symbolism signals the breaking point the indi- 
vidual occupies in the network of social aggregations. Psychopathological man- 
ifestations can reveal the structure of the fault line, but this structure can only 
be viewed as one element in the exploration of the whole. 

This is why we must rigorously distinguish psychoanalytic theory from 
the ever renewed fallacious attempts to base notions such as "modal person- 
ality," "national character," or "collective superego" on analytic theory. One 
can certainly see the appeal that a theory that so palpably reveals human real- 
ity has for pioneers in less clearly objective fields. Have we not heard a well- 
intentioned cleric boast of his plan to apply the data of psychoanalysis to 
Christian symbolism? To cut short such untoward extrapolations, we need 
but continually relate anew the theory to experience. 

This symbolism, which was already recognized in the first order of delin- 
quency that psychoanalysis had isolated as psychopathological, should allow 
us to indicate, in extension as well as in comprehension, the social significa- 
tion of "Oedipalism," and to critique the scope of the notion of the superego 
for all of the human sciences. 

Most, if not all, of the psychopathological effects in which the tensions stem- 
ming from Oedipalism are revealed, along with the historical coordinates that 
imposed these effects on Freud's investigative genius, lead us to believe that 
these effects express a dehiscence of the family unit at the heart of society. This 
133 conception — which is justified by the ever greater reduction of this unit to its 

conjugal form and by the ever more exclusive formative role it consequently 
plays in the child's first identifications and early discipline — explains why the 
family unit's power to captivate the individual has waxed as the family's social 
power has waned. 

To illustrate this, let us simply mention the fact that in a matrilineal soci- 
ety such as that of the Zuni or the Hopi Indians, responsibility for the care of 
an infant from the moment of its birth on falls by law to the father's sister. This 
inscribes the infant from the outset in a double system of parental relations 

A Theoretical Introduction to the Functions of Psychoanalysis in Criminology 109 

that are enriched at each stage of its life by a growing complexity of hierar- 
chized relationships. 

The problem of comparing the advantages that a supposed matriarchal fam- 
ily organization might have over the classical triangle of Oedipal structure in 
forming a superego that is bearable to the individual is thus outdated. Experi- 
ence has clearly shown that this triangle is merely the reduction, produced by 
an historical evolution, to the natural group of a formation in which the author- 
ity reserved for the father — the only remaining trait of its original structure — 
proves in effect to be ever more unstable, nay obsolete; the psychopathological 
impact of this situation must be related both to the tenuousness of the group 
relations that it provides the individual with and to the ever greater ambiva- 
lence of this structure. 

This conception is confirmed by the notion of latent delinquency to which 
Aichhorn was led in applying analytic experience to the youth he was in charge 
of owing to special jurisdiction. It is well known that Kate Friedlander devel- 
oped a genetic conception of latent delinquency under the heading of "neu- 
rotic character," and also that the best informed critics, from August Aichhorn 
himself to Edward Glover, seem to have been astonished by the theory's inabil- 
ity to distinguish the structure of this character as "criminogenic" from the 
structure of neurosis in which tensions remain latent in symptoms. 

The perspective we are presenting here allows us to see that "neurotic 
character" is the reflection in individual behavior of the isolation of the fam- 134 

ily unit, the asocial position of which is always found in such cases, whereas 
neurosis expresses instead the family unit's structural anomalies. What 
requires explanation is thus less a criminal acting out by a subject trapped in 
what Daniel Lagache has quite correctly characterized as imaginary behav- 
ior, than the processes by which neurotics partially adapt to reality [reel]: 
these are, as we know, the auto-plastic mutilations that can be recognized at 
the origin of symptoms. 

This sociological reference — "neurotic character" — agrees, moreover, 
with Kate Friedlander's account of its genesis, if it is correct to summarize the 
latter as the repetition, across the subject's biography, of drive frustrations 
that are seemingly arrested by short-circuiting the Oedipal situation, without 
ever again being engaged in a structural development. 

Psychoanalysis, in its understanding of crimes caused by the superego, thus 
has the effect of unrealiiing them. It agrees, in this respect, with a dim recog- 
nition that has long forced itself on the best of those responsible for law 

The vacillations that were seen throughout the nineteenth century in social 
conscience regarding society's right to punish were thus characteristic. Penol- 

no Ecrits 

ogists, sure of themselves and even implacable as soon as a utilitarian moti- 
vation appeared — so much so that English practice at that time considered 
misdemeanors (even if they only involved petty theft) that occasioned homi- 
cide to be equivalent to the premeditation that defines first degree murder (see 
Alimena's La premeditayone) — hesitated when faced with crimes in which 
instincts surfaced whose nature escaped the utilitarian register within which 
someone like Bentham developed his ideas. 

A first response was provided by Lombroso in the early days of criminol- 
ogy; he viewed these instincts as atavistic and took criminals to be survivors 
of an archaic form of the species that could be biologically isolated. One can 
say of this response that it betrayed, above all, a far realer philosophical regres- 
sion in its author and that its success can only be explained by the satisfactions 
that the euphoria of the dominant class then demanded, both for its intellec- 
tual comfort and its guilty conscience. 
135 The calamities of World War I having invalidated its claims, Lombroso's 

theory was relegated to the slag heap of history, and simple respect for the 
conditions proper to every human science — conditions we thought necessary 
to recall in our introduction — forced itself even on the study of criminals. 

Healy's The Individual Delinquent is an important landmark in the return 
to principles, stating as it does, first of all, the principle that this study must 
be monographic. The concrete results of psychoanalysis constitute another 
landmark, which is as decisive owing to the doctrinal confirmation that they 
bring this principle as by the importance of the facts that are brought out. 

Psychoanalysis simultaneously resolves a dilemma in criminological the- 
ory: in unrealizing crime, it does not dehumanize the criminal. 

Moreover, by means of transference, psychoanalysis grants us access to 
the imaginary world of the criminal, which can open the door to reality [reel] 
for him. 

Let us note here the spontaneous manifestation of transference in the crim- 
inal's behavior, in particular the transference that tends to develop with the 
criminal's judge, proof of which it would be easy to collect. Let us cite, for 
their sheer beauty, the remarks confided by a certain Frank to the psychiatrist 
Gilbert who was charged with the favorable presentation of the defendants at 
the Nuremberg trials. This pathetic Machiavelli, neurotic enough for fascism's 
insane regime to entrust him with its great works, felt remorse stir his soul at 
the dignified appearance of his judges, especially that of the English judge 
who he said was "so elegant." 

The results obtained with "major" criminals by Melitta Schmideberg, while 
their publication is thwarted by the same obstacle we encounter regarding all 
of our cases, would deserve to be followed up in their catamnesis. 

A Theoretical Introduction to the Functions of Psychoanalysis in Criminology in 

Be that as it may, the cases that clearly fall under Oedipalism should be 
entrusted to the analyst without any of the limitations that can hinder his action. 

How can we not completely put analysis to the test when penology's claims 
are so poorly justified that the popular mind balks at enforcing them even when 
faced with real crimes? This is seen in the famous case in America that Grot- 
jahn reported on in his article in Searchlights on Delinquency, where, to the 136 

delight of the public, we see the jury acquit the defendants, even though all 
the charges seemed to have overwhelmed them during the probation of first 
degree murder, disguised as an accident at sea, of the parents of one of them. 

Let us complete these considerations by enumerating the theoretical con- 
sequences that follow from this in the use of the notion of the superego. The 
superego must, in our view, be taken as an individual manifestation that is tied 
to the social conditions of Oedipalism. This is why the criminal tensions 
included in the family situation become pathogenic only in societies in which 
the family situation is disintegrating. 

In this sense, the superego reveals tension, just as illness sometimes sheds 
light on a physiological function. 

But analytic experience of the effects of the superego and direct observa- 
tion of children in light of this experience indicate that the superego appears 
at so early a stage that it seems to form contemporaneously with the ego, if 
not before it. 

Melanie Klein asserts that the categories Good and Bad are operative in the 
infant stage of behavior; this view raises a knotty problem — that of retroac- 
tively inserting significations into a stage at which language has yet to appear. 
We know how her method — using, despite all objections, Oedipal tensions in 
her extremely early interpretations of small children's intentions — simply cut 
the knot, provoking passionate debates about her theories in the process. 

The fact remains that the imaginary persistence of good and bad primor- 
dial objects in avoidance behaviors, which can bring adults into conflict with 
their responsibilities, leads us to conceptualize the superego as a psychologi- 
cal agency that has a generic signification in man. There is, nevertheless, noth- 
ing idealist about this notion; it is inscribed in the reality of the physiological 
misery that is characteristic of the first months of man's life, which one of us 
has emphasized, and it expresses man's dependence, which is, in effect, 
generic, on the human milieu. 

The fact that this dependence may seem to be signifying in individuals at 
an incredibly early stage of their development is not something psychoana- 
lysts need back away from. 

If our experience of psychopathology has brought us to the meeting point 137 

of nature and culture, we have discovered an obscure agency there, a blind 

ii2 Ecrits 

and tyrannical agency, which seems to be the antinomy, at the individual's bio- 
logical pole, of the ideal of pure Duty that Kant posited as a counterweight to 
the incorruptible order of the star-spangled heavens. 

Ever ready to emerge from the chaos of social categories to recreate the 
morbid universe of wrongdoing, to borrow Hesnard's lovely expression, this 
agency is nevertheless graspable only in the psychopathological state — that 
is, in the individual. 

Thus no form of the superego can be inferred from the individual to a given 
society And the only form of collective superego that one can conceive of 
would require a complete molecular disintegration of society. It is true that 
the enthusiasm with which an entire generation of young people sacrificed 
itself to the ideals of nothingness allows us to glimpse its possible realization 
on the horizon of mass social phenomena that would then presuppose that it 
occur on a universal scale. 

IV. On Crime in Relation to the Criminal's Reality: If Psychoanalysis 
Provides Its Measure, It [Also] Indicates Its Fundamental Social Mainspring 

Responsibility — that is, punishment — is an essential characteristic of the idea 
of man that prevails in a given society. 

A civilization whose ideals are ever more utilitarian, since it is caught up in 
the accelerated movement of production, can no longer understand anything 
about the expiatory signification of punishment. While it may consider pun- 
ishment useful as a warning to others, it tends to assimilate it into its correc- 
tional goal. And this goal imperceptibly changes objects. The ideals of 
humanism dissolve into the utilitarianism of the group. And since the group 
that lays down the law is, for social reasons, not at all sure that the foundations 
of its power are just, it relies on a humanitarianism in which are expressed both 
the revolt of the exploited and the guilty conscience of the exploiters, to whom 
the notion of punishment has become equally unbearable. An ideological 
antinomy reflects, here as elsewhere, a social malaise. It is now seeking the solu- 
tion to that malaise in a scientific approach to the problem, that is, in a psychi- 
138 atric analysis of the criminal to which — in the final analysis of all the measures 

for preventing crime and guarding against recidivism — what can be called a 
sanitary conception of penology must be related. 

This conception assumes that the relations between law and violence and 
the power of a universal police have been resolved. Indeed, we saw this con- 
ception reigning proudly in Nuremberg, and although the sanitary effect of 
those trials remains doubtful regarding the suppression of the social ills that 
it claimed to repress, psychiatrists had to be included for reasons of "human- 

A Theoretical Introduction to the Functions of Psychoanalysis in Criminology 113 

ity," these reasons more closely resembling respect for the human object than 
the notion of our fellowman. 

A parallel evolution in the probation of crime corresponds, in fact, to the 
evolution in the meaning of punishment. 

Beginning in religious societies with the ordeal and the test of sworn oath, 
in which the guilty party is identified by means of belief or offers up his fate 
to God's judgment, probation demands ever more of the individual's involve- 
ment in confession as his juridical personality is progressively specified. This 
is why the entire humanist evolution of Law in Europe — which began with 
the rediscovery of Roman Law at the University of Bologna and extended to 
the entire appropriation [captation] of justice by royal jurists and the univer- 
salization of the notion of the Law of Nations [Droit desgens] — is strictly cor- 
relative, in time and space, to the spread of torture that also began in Bologna 
as a means in the probation of a crime. This is a fact whose import people 
apparently still have not gauged. 

For the contempt for conscience that is manifest in the widespread reap- 
pearance of this practice as a means of oppression hides from us what faith in 
man it presupposes as a means of enforcing justice. 

If the juridical practice of torture was abandoned precisely when our soci- 
ety began promulgating Human Rights, which were ideologically founded in 
the abstraction of man's natural being, it was not because of an improvement 
in mores, which would be difficult to sustain given the historical perspective 
we have on nineteenth century social reality. Rather, it was because this new 
man, abstracted from his social consistency, was no longer believable in either 
sense of the term. That is, since he was no longer subject to sinning [pecca- 
ble], one could lend credence neither to his existence as a criminal nor to his 139 
confession. From then on, it was necessary to know his motivations, along 
with his motives for committing the crime, and these motivations and motives 
had to be comprehensible — comprehensible to everyone. As Tarde, one of 
the best minds among those who tried to solve the crisis in "penal philoso- 
phy," formulated it (with a sociological rectitude for which he deserves to be 
remembered, not forgotten as he is), two conditions are required for the sub- 
ject to be fully responsible: social similarity and personal identity. 

This opened the door of the praetorium to psychologists, and the fact that 
they only rarely appear there in person simply proves the social insolvency of 
their function. 

From that moment on, the "situation of the accused," to borrow Roger Gre- 
nier's expression, could no longer be described as anything but the meeting 
place of irreconcilable truths, as is apparent when listening to the most trivial 
trials in criminal court at which an expert is called on to testify. There is an 

ii4 Ecrits 

obvious incommensurability between the emotions the prosecution and the 
defense refer to in their debate (because they are the emotions understood by 
the jury), on the one hand, and the objective notions that the expert brings, 
on the other hand — notions that he does not manage to get across, poor dialec- 
tician that he is, since he is unable to nail them down in a conclusion of non 
compos mentis [irresponsabilite]. 

This incommensurability can be seen in the minds of the experts themselves, 
for it interferes with their function in the resentment they manifest regardless 
of their duty. Consider the case of the expert called before the Court to testify 
who refused to conduct anything but a physical examination of an indicted man 
who manifestly was mentally healthy. The expert hid behind the Code of Law, 
arguing that he did not have to conclude whether the act imputed to the subject 
by a police investigation had occurred or not, whereas a psychiatric evaluation 
explicitly informed him that a simple psychiatric exam would demonstrate with 
certainty that the act in question merely looked like a crime; since it figured 
in the subject's obsession as a repetitive gesture, it could not constitute a crim- 
inal act of exhibitionism in the enclosed but monitored space where it occurred. 

Expert witnesses are, however, granted almost discretionary power over 
the severity of the sentence [in France], provided they make use of the exten- 
sion added by law for their use in Article 64 of the Code. 
140 But while this sole article cannot help them explain the coercive nature of 

the force that led to the subject's act, it at least allows them to seek to discover 
who suffered its coercion. 

But only psychoanalysts can answer such a question, in that only they have 
a dialectical experience of the subject. 

Let us note that one of the first things to which this experience taught them 
to attribute psychical autonomy — namely, what analysis has progressively the- 
orized as representing the ego as an agency — is also what subjects in the ana- 
lytic dialogue admit to be part of themselves or, more precisely, that part of 
their actions and intentions that they admit to. Freud recognized the form of 
this admission that is most characteristic of the function it represents: Vernei- 
nung, that is, negation. 

We could trace out here a whole semiology of cultural forms through which 
subjectivity is communicated. We could begin with the intellectual restriction 
characteristic of Christian humanism, the codified usage of which the Jesuits, 
those admirable moralists, have so often been reproached for. We could con- 
tinue with the "ketman," a sort of exercise for protecting against truth, which 
Gobineau, in his penetrating account of social life in the Middle East, indi- 
cates is widespread. From there we could move on to Yang, a ceremony of 
refusals that Chinese politeness lays out as steps in the recognition of other 

A Theoretical Introduction to the Functions of Psychoanalysis in Criminology 1 15 

people. This would allow us to see that the most characteristic form of expres- 
sion of the subject in Western society is the assertion of one's innocence. We 
could thus posit that sincerity is the first obstacle encountered by the dialec- 
tic in the search for true intentions, the first goal of speech apparently being 
to disguise them. 

But this is merely the tip of a structure that is found anew at every stage in 
the genesis of the ego, and it shows that the dialectic provides the unconscious 
law of even the earliest formations of the system [appareil] of adaptation, thus 
confirming Hegel's gnoseology which formulates the law that generates real- 
ity through the unfolding of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. It is certainly 
piquant to see Marxists wrestling to discover imperceptible traces of this unfold- 
ing in the progression of the essentially idealist notions that constitute math- 
ematics, and overlooking it precisely where it is most likely to appear: in the 
only psychology that clearly deals with the concrete, even if its theory does 141 

not acknowledge being guided by this unfolding. 

It is all the more significant to recognize the latter in the succession of 
crises — weaning, intrusion, Oedipus, puberty, and adolescence — each of 
which produces a new synthesis of the ego systems [appareils] in a form that 
is ever more alienating for the drives that are frustrated therein, and ever less 
ideal for the drives that are normalized thereby. This form is produced by 
what is perhaps the most fundamental psychical phenomenon that psycho- 
analysis has discovered: identification, whose formative power is confirmed 
even in biology. Each of the periods of so-called drive latency (the corre- 
sponding series of which is completed by the one that Fritz Wittels discov- 
ered in the adolescent ego) is characterized by the domination of a typical 
structure of objects of desire. 

One of us has described the infant's identification with his specular 
image as the most significant model, as well as the earliest moment, of the 
fundamentally alienating relationship in which man's being is dialectically 

He has also demonstrated that each identification gives rise to an aggres- 
siveness which cannot be adequately explained by drive frustration — except 
in the commonsense manner dear to Franz Alexander — but which expresses 
the discordance that is produced by the alienation. This phenomenon can be 
exemplified by the grimacing form of it found in experiments in which ani- 
mals are exposed to an increasingly ambiguous stimulus — for example, one 
that gradually changes from an ellipse to a circle — when the animals have been 
conditioned to respond to the two different stimuli in opposite ways. 

This tension manifests the dialectical negativity inscribed in the very forms 
in which the life forces are taken up in man, and we can say that Freud showed 

n6 Ecrits 

his genius when, with the term "death instinct," he recognized this tension as 
an "ego drive." 

Indeed, every form of the ego embodies this negativity, and we can say that 
if Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos share the wardship of our fate, it is in con- 
cert that they spin the thread of our identity. 

Aggressive tension thus becomes part of the drive, whenever the drive is 
frustrated because the "other's" noncorrespondence [to one 's wishes] aborts 
142 the resolving identification, and this produces a type of object that becomes 

criminogenic by interrupting the dialectical formation of one 's ego. 

One of us has attempted to show the functional role and the correlation 
with delusion of this object's structure in two extreme forms of paranoiac homi- 
cide, the case of "Aimee" and that of the Papin sisters. The latter provides 
proof that only the analyst can demonstrate that a criminal is alienated from 
reality in a case in which popular opinion is deluded into believing that the 
crime was simply a response to its social context. 

These are also the object structures that Anna Freud, Kate Friedlander, and 
John Bowlby found, in their work as analysts, in acts of theft committed by 
juvenile delinquents, structures that differed depending on whether these acts 
manifested the symbolism of a gift of excrement or an Oedipal demand, the 
frustration of nourishing presence or that of phallic masturbation. What these 
analysts call the educative portion of their work with the subject is guided by 
the notion that each object structure corresponds to a type of reality that deter- 
mines his actions. 

This education is, rather, a living dialectic, in accordance with which the 
educators, through their non-action, relegate the aggressions characteristic of 
the ego to becoming bound [se Her] for the subject as he becomes alienated in 
his relations with the other, so that they can then unbind [de'lier] these aggres- 
sions using classical analysis' typical techniques. 

The ingenuity and patience that we admire in the initiatives of a pioneer 
like Aichhorn certainly do not make us forget that the form of these tech- 
niques must always be renewed in order to overcome the resistances that the 
"aggressive group" cannot help but deploy against every recognized form of 

Such a conception of the action of "setting straight" is diametrically 
opposed to everything that can be inspired by a psychology that calls itself 
genetic. The latter merely measures children's degressive aptitudes in 
response to questions that are posed to them in the purely abstract register of 
adult mental categories, and it can be overturned by the simple apprehension 
of the primordial fact that children, right from their very first manifestations 
of language, use syntax and particles with a level of sophistication that the pos- 

A Theoretical Introduction to the Functions of Psychoanalysis in Criminology ny 

tulates of intellectual "genesis" would allow them to reach only at the height 
of a metaphysician's career. 

And since genetic psychology claims to reach the child 's reality in this idi- 143 

otic manner, let us say that it is the pedants who should be warned that they 
will have to realize their mistake when the words, "Long live death," prof- 
fered by mouths that know not what they say, make the pedants see that the 
burning dialectic circulates in the flesh along with the blood. 

This conception also specifies the sort of expert opinion that analysts can 
give on the reality of a crime in basing themselves on the study of what we 
can call the ego's negativistic techniques — whether they be suffered by a per- 
son who becomes a criminal because of a one-time opportunity or are directed 
by the hardened criminal — namely, the basal inanition [inanisation] of spatial 
and temporal perspectives that are necessitated by the intimidating prediction 
in which the so-called "hedonistic" theory of penology naively trusts; the pro- 
gressive subduction of interests in the field of object temptation; the shrinking 
of the field of consciousness in tandem with a somnambulistic apprehension 
of the immediate situation in carrying out the criminal act; and the structural 
coordination of the act with fantasies from which the author is absent — ideal 
annulment or imaginary creations — to which are attached, according to an 
unconscious spontaneity, the negations, alibis, and simulations by which the 
alienated reality that characterizes the subject is sustained. 

We wish to say here that this entire chain does not ordinarily have the arbi- 
trary organization of a deliberate behavior, and that the structural anomalies 
that analysts can note in it will serve them as so many landmarks on the path 
to truth. Thus analysts will attach more meaning to the often paradoxical 
traces by which the author of the crime identifies himself, which signify less 
errors of imperfect execution of the act than failures of an all too real "every- 
day psychopathology." 

Anal identifications, which analysis has discovered at the origins of the ego, 
give meaning to what forensic medicine designates in police jargon by the name 
of "calling card." The often flagrant "signature" left by the criminal can indi- 
cate at what moment of ego identification the repression [repression] occurred 
thanks to which one can say that the subject cannot answer for his crime, and 
thanks to which he remains attached to that repression in his negation. 

A recently published case by Boutonier shows us the mainspring of a crim- 
inal's awakening to the realization .of what condemned him, which goes as far 
as the mirror phenomenon itself. 

To overcome these repressions, should we resort to one of those narcosis 144 

procedures so oddly brought into the news by the alarms they set off in the 
virtuous defenders of the inviolability of consciousness? 

n8 Ecrits 

No one can find his way along this path better than the psychoanalyst — 
first, because, contrary to the confused mythology in the name of which the 
ignorant expect narcosis to "lift the censorship," the psychoanalyst knows 
the precise meaning of the repressions that define the limits of ego synthesis. 

Therefore, if he already knows that when the analysis restores the 
repressed unconscious to consciousness, it is less the content of its revelation 
than the mainspring of its reconquest that constitutes the efficacy of the treat- 
ment — and this is true a fortiori for the unconscious determinations that prop 
up the very affirmation of the ego — the analyst also knows that reality, 
whether it concerns the subject's motivation or (as is sometimes the case) his 
very action, can appear only through the progress of a dialogue that the nar- 
cotic twilight can but render inconsistent. Here, as elsewhere, truth is not a 
pregiven that one can grasp in its inertia, but rather a dialectic in motion. 

Let us not, then, seek the reality of the crime or of the criminal by means 
of narcosis. The vaticinations that narcosis provokes, which are disconcert- 
ing to the investigator, are dangerous to the subject for whom they can con- 
stitute the "fertile moment" of a delusion if he has even the slightest hint of a 
psychotic structure. 

Narcosis, like torture, has its limits: it cannot make the subject confess to 
something he does not know. 

Zacchias' Quaestiones medico-legales informs us that questions were raised 
about the unity of the personality and the possible breaks in it that illness can 
bring about already in the seventeenth century. In response to these questions, 
psychoanalysis provides the apparatus for examination that still covers a field 
linking nature and culture — namely, that of personal synthesis, in its twofold 
relation of formal identification, which begins with the gaps in neurological 
dissociations (from epileptic fits to organically-based amnesias), and of alien- 
ating assimilation, which begins with the tensions in group relations. 

Here the psychoanalyst can indicate to the sociologist the criminogenic func- 
145 tions characteristic of a society which, requiring an extremely complex and 

extensive vertical integration of social collaboration for the purpose of pro- 
duction, proposes to the subjects it employs for this purpose individual ideals 
that tend to boil down to an ever more horizontal plane of assimilation. 

This formulation designates a process whose dialectical aspect can be sum- 
marized by noting that, in a civilization in which the ideal of individualism has 
been raised to a previously unknown power, individuals find themselves tend- 
ing toward a state in which they will think, feel, act, and love things exactly 
at the same times, and in strictly equivalent portions of space, as everyone else. 

Now, the fundamental notion of an aggressiveness that is correlative to every 
alienating identification allows us to perceive that, in the phenomena of social 

A Theoretical Introduction to the Functions of Psychoanalysis in Criminology 1 19 

assimilation, there must be a limit, based on a certain quantitative scale, at which 
standardized aggressive tensions are precipitated at points where the mass 
breaks apart and becomes polarized. 

We know, moreover, that these phenomena have already, from the vantage 
point of output alone, attracted the attention of exploiters of labor power who 
are not all talk and no action, justifying the price paid by the Western Electric 
Company in Hawthorne, Illinois, for a sustained study of the effects of group 
relations on the most desirable psychical attitudes in employees. 

The following are objects of study regarding which analytic theory can 
offer statisticians the correct coordinates on the basis of which to begin meas- 
uring things: a complete separation between the vital group, constituted by 
the subject and his family, and the functional group in which the vital group's 
means of subsistence must be found (a fact that we can sufficiently illustrate 
by saying that it makes Monsieur Verdoux seem plausible); an anarchy of 
desire-eliciting images that is all the greater as they seem to gravitate ever 
more around scopophilic satisfactions that are homogenized in the social 
mass; and an ever greater involvement of the fundamental passions for 
power, possession, and prestige in social ideals. 

Thus even the politician and the philosopher will find something useful 
here. They will note, in a certain democratic society whose mores are extend- 
ing their domination around the globe, (1) the appearance of a form of crim- 146 
inality that so riddles the social body now that it is assuming legalized forms 
in it; (2) the inclusion of the criminal's psychological type into the set of types 
comprising the record-holder, the philanthropist, and the star, and even his 
reduction to the general type of the wage slave; and (3) crime 's social signi- 
fication reduced to its use in advertising. 

These structures — in which an extreme social assimilation of the individ- 
ual is correlated with an aggressive tension whose relative impunity in the State 
is quite palpable to someone from a different culture (as was, for example, the 
young Sun Yat-sen) — seem to be reversed when, according to a formal 
process already described by Plato, tyranny succeeds democracy and carries 
out the cardinal act of addition on individuals, who are reduced to their ordi- 
nal numbers, which is soon followed by the other three fundamental opera- 
tions of arithmetic. 

This is why, in totalitarian societies, while the leaders' "objective guilt" leads 
them to be treated as criminal and responsible, the relative effacement of these 
notions, which is signaled by the sanitary conception of penology, bears fruit 
for everyone else. The concentration camp is opened and, in determining who 
will fill it, rebellious intentions are less decisive qualifications than a certain 
quantitative relationship between the social mass and the banished mass. 

120 Ecrits 

This relationship will no doubt be calculable in terms of the mechanics devel- 
oped by so-called "group psychology," and will allow us to determine the irra- 
tional constant that must correspond to the aggressiveness characteristic of 
the individual's fundamental alienation. 

The progress by which man creates himself in his own image is thus 
revealed in the city's very injustice, which is always incomprehensible to the 
"intellectual" who is subjugated by the "law of the heart." 

V. On the Non-existence of "Criminal Instincts ": Psychoanalysis 

Stops Short at the Ob j edification of the Id and Proclaims the Autonomy 

of an Irreducibly Subjective Experience 

Assuming now that psychoanalysis illuminates, as we have claimed, the psy- 
chological objectification of crime and criminals, doesn't it also have some- 
thing to say about their innate factors? 
147 Let us note first the critique to which it is necessary to submit the confused 

idea that many decent people endorse: that crime involves an eruption of 
"instincts" that breaks down the "barrier" constituted by the moral forces of 
intimidation. This is a difficult illusion to dispel, owing to the satisfaction it 
gives even to the serious-minded by depicting the criminal as well guarded; 
the tutelary policeman, who is characteristic of our society, here takes on a 
reassuring ubiquity. 

But if instinct does, in fact, signify man's indisputable animal nature, it is 
not at all clear why this animal nature should be less docile when it is embod- 
ied in a reasonable being. The form of the adage, homo homini lupus, deceives 
us as to its meaning, and Baltasar Gracian, in a chapter of his Criticon {The 
Critick), constructs a fable in which he shows what the moralist tradition means 
when it says that man's ferocity toward his semblable exceeds everything ani- 
mals are capable of, and that carnivores themselves recoil in horror at the threat 
man poses to nature as a whole. 

But this very cruelty implies humanity. It targets a semblable, even in [cases 
in which the cruelty more directly targets] a being from another species. Noth- 
ing has sounded more deeply than psychoanalysis the equivalence [of self and 
other] in lived experience to which we are alerted by Love 's moving appeal — 
it is yourself that you are striking — and by the Mind's icy deduction: it is in 
the fight to the death for pure prestige that man wins recognition from man. 

If, in another sense, one uses "instincts" to mean atavistic behaviors whose 
violence might have been necessitated by the law of the primitive jungle, which 
some physiopathologic lapse supposedly releases, like morbid impulses, from 
the lower level in which they are bottled up, one can wonder why impulses to 

A Theoretical Introduction to the Functions of Psychoanalysis in Criminology 121 

shovel, plant, cook, and even bury the dead have not surfaced since man has 
been man. 

Psychoanalysis certainly includes a theory of instincts, a highly elaborate 
one at that, which is the first verifiable theory of man that has ever been prof- 
fered. But psychoanalysis shows us the instincts caught up in a metamor- 
phism in which the formulation of their organ, direction, and object is a 
Jeannot knife with infinitely exchangeable parts. The Triebe (drives) that are 
identified in this theory simply constitute a system of energetic equivalences 148 

to which we relate psychical exchanges, not insofar as they become subordi- 
nate to some entirely set behavior, whether natural or learned, but insofar as 
they symbolize, nay dialectically incorporate [integrent], the functions of the 
organs in which these natural exchanges appear — that is, the oral, anal, and 
genito-urinary orifices. 

These drives thus appear to us only through highly complex links; we can- 
not prejudge their original intensity on the basis of their sheer deflection. It is 
meaningless to speak of an excess of libido. 

If there is a notion that can be derived from a great number of individuals 
who — due both to their past history and the "constitutional" impression peo- 
ple receive from contact with them and from their appearance — inspire in us 
the idea of "criminal tendencies," it is rather that of a shortage than of an excess 
of vitality. Their hypogenitality is often clear and their personal climate radi- 
ates libidinal coldness. 

While many subjects seek and find sexual stimulation in their misde- 
meanors, exhibitions, thefts, bill dodging, and anonymous slander, and even 
in their crimes of murderous passion, this stimulation (whatever the status of 
the mechanisms that cause it, whether anxiety, sadism, or its association with 
a particular situation) cannot be viewed as the effect of an overflowing of 

Assuredly, there is a high correlation between many perversions and the 
subjects who are sent for criminological examinations, but this correlation can 
only be evaluated psychoanalytically as a function of fixation on an object, 
developmental stagnation, the impact of ego structure, and neurotic repres- 
sions in each individual case. 

More concrete is the notion with which psychoanalytic experience com- 
pletes the psychical topography of the individual, that of the id, which is also 
much more difficult to grasp than the others. 

To make the id the sum total of the subject's innate dispositions is a purely 
abstract definition devoid of use value. 

A situational constant, which is fundamental in what psychoanalytic the- 
ory calls repetition automatisms, appears to be related to it (after subtracting 

izz Ecrits 

the effects of the repressed and of ego identifications) and can be relevant to 
149 Of course, the id also refers to the fateful choices evident in marriage, pro- 

fession, and friendship that often appear in a crime as a revelation of the faces 
of destiny. 

The subject's "tendencies" do not fail, moreover, to manifest slippage in 
relation to their level of satisfaction. The question of the effects that a certain 
index of criminal satisfaction can have there should be raised. 

But we are perhaps at the limits of our dialectical action here, and the truth 
that we are able to recognize in it with the subject cannot be reduced to sci- 
entific objectification. 

On the basis of the confession we hear from the neurotic or pervert of the 
ineffable jouissance he finds in losing himself in the fascinating image, we can 
gauge the power of a hedonism that introduces us to the ambiguous relations 
between reality and pleasure. If, in referring to these two grand principles, we 
are tracing out the direction of normative development, how can we not but 
be struck by the importance of fantasmatic functions in the grounds for this 
progression, and by how captive human life remains to the narcissistic illu- 
sion with which it weaves, as we know, life's "realest" coordinates? And, on 
the other hand, isn't everything already weighed out next to the cradle in the 
incommensurable scales of Strife and Love? 

Beyond these antinomies, which lead us to the threshold of wisdom, there 
is no absolute crime; and, despite the police action extended by our civiliza- 
tion to the whole world, there are still religious associations that are bound 
together by a practice of crime — crime in which their members know how to 
find anew the superhuman presences that ensure destruction in order to keep 
the Universe in balance. 

For our part, if we can — within the limits that we have endeavored to 
define as those to which our social ideals reduce the comprehension of crime 
and which condition its criminological objectification — contribute a more 
rigorous truth, let us not forget that we owe it to a privileged function: the 
subject- to-subject practice that inscribes our duties in the order of eternal 
brotherhood. Its rule is also the rule of every action that is permitted to us. 

Presentation on Psychical Causality 151 

This presentation was given on September 28th, 1946, at the psychiatric con- 
ference held in Bonneval that was organized by Henri Ey on the topic of psy- 
chogenesis. A collection of the presentations made at the conference and of the 
discussion that followed them was published by Desclee de Brouwer in a vol- 
ume entitled Le Probleme de la psychogenese des nevroses et des psychoses ("The 
Problem of the Psychogenesis of the Neuroses and Psychoses"). My presenta- 
tion served to open the meeting. 

/. Critique of an Organicist Theory of Madness, 
Henri Ey's Organo-Dynamism 

Having been invited by our host, three years ago already, to explain my views 
on psychical causality to you, my task here will be twofold. I have been asked 
to formulate a radical position concerning this topic — a position that people 
assume to be mine, and indeed it is. In addition, I must do so in the context of 
a debate that has reached a degree of development to which I have by no means 
contributed. I hope to meet your expectations by directly addressing both facets 
of this task, although no one can demand that I do so thoroughly here. 

For several years I avoided all opportunities to express my views. The humil- 
iation of our times, faced with the enemies of humankind, dissuaded me from 
doing so. Like Fontenelle, I gave myself over to the fantasy of having my hand 
filled with truths all the better to hold on to them. I confess that it is a ridicu- 
lous fantasy, marking, as it does, the limitations of a being who is on the verge 
of bearing witness. Must we view it as a failure on my part to live up to what 
the course of the world demands of me, when I was asked anew to speak at 
the very moment when even the least clairvoyant could see that the infatua- 1 52 

tion with power had, once again, merely served the ruse of Reason? I'll let 
you be the judge of how my research may suffer from this. 

At least I do not think I am failing to live up to the requirements of truth 

124 Ecrits 

in rejoicing at the fact that my research can be defended here in the courteous 
forms of verbal debate. 

This is why I will first respectfully bow before the enterprise of thinking 
and teaching that makes for honor in one 's lifetime and is the foundation of 
one 's lifework; if I remind my friend Henri Ey that, by endorsing the same 
initial theoretical positions, we entered the ring together on the same side, it 
is not simply in order to express surprise at the fact that we find ourselves on 
such opposite sides today. 

In fact, ever since Ey published his fine work, "Essai d' application des 
principes de Jackson a une conception dynamique de la neuropsychiatries ("An 
Attempt to Apply Jackson's Principles to a Dynamic Conception of Neuro- 
psychiatry"), written in collaboration with Julien Rouart, in the journal 
Encephale in 1936, 1 noted — and my copy attests to this — everything that linked 
his views, and would link them ever more closely, to a doctrine of mental prob- 
lems that I consider incomplete and false, a doctrine which, in psychiatry, is 
known as "organicism." 

Strictly speaking, Ey's organo-dynamism can legitimately be included in 
this doctrine simply because it cannot relate the genesis of mental problems 
as such — whether functional or lesional in their nature, global or partial in 
their manifestations, and as dynamic as they may be in their mainspring — to 
anything but the play of systems constituted in the material substance [l 9 eten- 
due] located within the body's integument. The crucial point, in my view, is 
that this play, no matter how energetic and integrating one conceives it to be, 
always rests in the final analysis on molecular interaction of the partes-extra- 
partes, material-substance type that classical physics is based on — that is, in a 
way which allows one to express this interaction as a relation between func- 
tion and variable, this relation constituting its determinism. 

Organicism is being enriched with conceptions that range from mechanis- 
tic to dynamistic and even Gestaltist ones. The conception that Ey borrows 
from Jackson certainly lends itself to this enriching, to which his own discus- 
sion of it has contributed — showing that Ey's conception does not exceed the 
limits I have just defined. This is what, from my point of view, makes the dif- 
ference between his position and that of my master, Clerambault, or of 
153 Guiraud negligible — and I should note that the position adopted by the latter 

two authors has proven to be of the least negligible psychiatric value, and we 
shall see in what sense further on. 

In any case, Ey cannot repudiate the frame within which I am confining 
him. Since this frame is based on a Cartesian reference — which he has cer- 
tainly recognized and whose meaning I would ask him to reconsider — it des- 
ignates nothing but recourse to the (self-)evidence of physical reality, which 

Presentation on Psychical Causality i25 

is of importance to him, as it is to all of us, ever since Descartes based it on 
the notion of material substance [I'e'tendue]. "Energetic functions," to adopt 
Ey's terminology, can be integrated into this just as much as "instrumental 
functions" can, 1 for he writes "that it is not only possible but necessary to 
search for the chemical and anatomical conditions" of the "specific cerebral 
process that produces mental illness"; he also mentions "lesions that weaken 
the energetic processes which are necessary for the deployment of the psy- 
chical functions." 

This is self-evident, in any case, and I am merely laying out in an intro- 
ductory manner here the border that I intend to place between our views. 

Having said that, I will first present a critique of Ey's organo-dynamism. 
I will do so, not in order to say that his conception does not stand up, for our 
presence here today provides ample proof of the contrary, but in order to 
demonstrate — in the authentic explanation of it that this conception owes as 
much to the intellectual rigor of its author as to the dialectical quality of your 
debates — that it does not possess the characteristics of a true idea. 

It may perhaps surprise some of you that I am disregarding the philosoph- 
ical taboo that has overhung the notion of truth in scientific epistemology ever 
since the so-called pragmatist speculative theses were disseminated in it. You 
will see that the question of truth conditions the phenomenon of madness in 154 

its very essence, and that by trying to avoid this question, one castrates this 
phenomenon of the signification by virtue of which I think I can show you 
that it is tied to man's very being. 

As for the critical use that I will make of it in a moment, I will stay close 
to Descartes by positing the notion of truth in the famous form Spinoza gave 
it: "Idea vera debet cum suo ideato convenire. A true idea must" (the emphasis 
falls on the word "must," meaning that this is its own necessity) "agree with 
its object." 

Ey's doctrine evinces the exact opposite feature, in that, as it develops, it 
increasingly contradicts its original, permanent problem. 

This problem — and it is to Ey's keen merit that he sensed its import and 
took responsibility for it — is the one found in the titles of his most recent pub- 
lications: the problem of the limits of neurology and psychiatry. This problem 
would certainly have no more importance here than in any other medical spe- 
cialty, if it did not concern the originality of the object of our experience — 
namely, madness. I sincerely praise Ey for obstinately maintaining this term, 
given all the suspicions it can arouse, due to its antiquated stench of the sacred, 
in those who would like to reduce it in some way to the omnitudo realitatis. 

Plainly speaking, is there nothing that distinguishes the insane [laliene] from 
other patients apart from the fact that the first are locked up in asylums, whereas 

126 Ecrits 

the others are hospitalized? Is the originality of our object related to practice, 
social practice? or to reason, scientific reason? 

It was clear that Ey could not but distance himself from such reason once 
he went looking for it in Jackson's conceptions. No matter how remarkable 
they were for their time, owing to their all-encompassing requirements 
regarding the organism's relational functions, their principle and goal were to 
reduce neurological and psychiatric problems to one and the same scale of dis- 
solutions. And, in fact, this is what happened. No matter how subtle the cor- 
rective that Ey brought to this conception, his students, Hecaen, Follin, and 
Bonnafe, easily proved to him that it does not allow us to essentially distin- 
guish aphasia from dementia, functional pain from hypochondria, hallucinosis 
from hallucinations, or even certain forms of agnosia from certain delusions. 

I myself would ask Ey to explain, for example, the famous patient discussed 
155 by Gelb and Goldstein, whose study has been examined from other angles by 

Benary and by Hochheimer. This patient, afflicted with an occipital lesion that 
destroyed both calcarine sulci, presented (1) psychical blindness accompanied 
by selective problems with all categorial symbolism, such as abolishment of 
pointing behavior, in contrast with the preservation of grasping behavior; (2) 
extreme agnostic troubles that must be conceived of as an asymbolia of the 
entire perceptual field; and (3) a deficit in the apprehension of significance as 
such, manifested in (a) an inability to understand analogies directly at the intel- 
lectual level, whereas he was able to refind them in verbal symmetry; (b) an 
odd "blindness to the intuition of number" (as Hochheimer puts it), which did 
not stop him, however, from performing mechanical operations on numbers; 
and (c) an absorption in his present circumstances, which rendered him inca- 
pable of entertaining anything fictional, and thus of any abstract reasoning, a 
fortiori barring all access to speculation. 

This is truly an extreme, across-the-board dissolution, which, let it be noted 
in passing, goes right to the very core of the patient's sexual behavior, where 
the immediacy of the sexual project is reflected in the brevity of the act, and 
even in the fact that its interruption is met by him with indifference. 

Don't we see here a negative dissolution problem that is simultaneously 
global and apical, whereas the gap between the patient's organic condition and 
his clinical picture is seen clearly enough in the contrast between the local- 
ization of the lesion in the zone of visual projection and the extension of the 
symptom to the entire sphere of symbolism? 

Would Ey tell me that what distinguishes this patient with an obviously 
neurological problem from a psychotic is the fact that the remaining person- 
ality fails to react to the negative problem? I would answer that this is not at 
all the case. For this patient, beyond the routine professional activity that he 

Presentation on Psychical Causality 123 

has kept up, expresses, for instance, nostalgia for the religious and political 
speculations that he cannot engage in anymore. In medical tests, he manages 
to reach certain objectives, which he no longer understands, in a roundabout 
manner by mechanically though deliberately getting a "handle" on them via 
behaviors that have remained possible for him. Even more striking than the 
way he manages to limit his agnosia of somatic functions, in order to recover 
some pointing activity, is the way he feels around in his stock of language in 1 56 

order to overcome some of his agnostic deficits. Still more moving is his col- 
laboration with his physician in the analysis of his problems, as when he comes 
up with certain words (for example, Anhaltspunkte, handles) with which to 
name certain of his artifices. 

Here then is what I would ask Ey: How can he distinguish this patient from 
a madman? If he cannot give me an answer in his system, it will be up to me 
to give him one in my own. 

And if he answers with "noetic problems" of "functional dissolutions," I 
will ask him how the latter differ from what he calls "global dissolutions." 

In fact, in Ey's theory it is clearly the personality's reaction that is specific 
to psychosis, regardless of his reservations about it. This is where his theory 
reveals both its contradiction and its weakness, because as he ever more sys- 
tematically misunderstands all forms of psychogenesis — so much so that he 
admits that he can no longer even understand what psychogenesis means 2 — 
we see him increasingly weigh down his exposes with ever more complicated 
"structural" descriptions of psychical activity, in which the same internal con- 
tradiction appears anew in a still more paralyzing form. As I will show by quot- 
ing him. 

In order to criticize psychogenesis, we see Ey reduce it to the forms of an 
idea that can be refuted all the more easily because one addresses only those 
forms provided by the idea's adversaries. Let me enumerate these forms with 
him: emotional shock, conceived of in terms of its physiological effects; reac- 
tional factors, viewed from a constitutionalist perspective; unconscious trau- 
matic effects, insofar as they are abandoned, according to him, by even those 
who support the idea; and, lastly, pathogenic suggestion, insofar "as the 
staunchest organicists and neurologists — no need to mention their names 
here — leave themselves this escape hatch and admit as exceptional evidence 
a psychogenesis that they thoroughly reject from the rest of pathology." 

I have omitted only one term from the series, the theory of regression in 
the unconscious, which is included among the most serious [forms of the idea 
of psychogenesis], no doubt because it can, at least apparently, be reduced "to 
an attack on the ego which, once again, is indistinguishable, in the final analy- 157 

sis, from the notion of functional dissolution." I have cited this phrase, which 

iz8 Ecrits 

is repeated in a hundred different ways in Ey's work, because it will help me 
point out the radical flaw in his conception of psychopathology. 

The forms I have just enumerated sum up, Ey tells us, the "facts that are 
invoked" (his words exactly) to demonstrate the existence of psychogenesis. 
It is just as easy for Ey to remark that these facts "demonstrate anything but 
that" as it is for me to note that adopting such a facile position allows him to 
avoid running any risks. 

Why is it that, in inquiring into the doctrinal tendencies to which, in the 
absence of facts, we would have to attribute "a [notion of] psychogenesis that 
is hardly compatible with the psychopathological facts," he immediately 
thinks he has to show they derive from Descartes, by attributing to the latter 
an absolute dualism between the organic realm and the psychical realm? I 
myself have always thought — and, in the talks we had in our younger days, 
Ey seemed to realize this too — that Descartes' dualism is, rather, that of exten- 
sion \l 9 etendue\ and thought. One is surprised, on the contrary, that Ey seeks 
no support from an author for whom thought can err only insofar as confused 
ideas, which are determined by the body's passions, have found admittance 
into it. 

Perhaps, indeed, it is better for Ey not to base anything on such an ally, in 
whom I seem to have such confidence. But, for God's sake, after having trot- 
ted out for us Cartesian psychogeneticists of the caliber of Babinski, Andre- 
Thomas, and Lhermitte, he should at least avoid identifying "the fundamental 
Cartesian intuition" with a psychophysiological parallelism that is worthier 
of Taine than of Spinoza. Such a straying from the sources might make us 
think that Jackson's influence is still more pernicious than it at first seemed. 

Having vilified the dualism he imputes to Descartes, Ey introduces us 
directly — through a "theory of psychical life that is incompatible with the idea 
that there can be a psychogenesis of mental problems" — to his own dualism, 
which finds complete expression in this final sentence, the tone of which is 
quite singularly passionate: "mental illnesses are insults and obstacles to free- 
dom; they are not caused by free, that is, purely psychogenic, activity." 

Ey's dualism seems all the more serious to me in that it points to an unten- 

158 able equivocation in his thinking. Indeed, I suspect that his entire analysis of 

psychical activity hinges on a play on words: that between his free play and 

his freedom [son librejeu et sa liberte\ Let us add to it the key provided by the 

word "deployment." 

Like Goldstein, Ey posits that "integration is being." Hence he must 
include in this integration not only the psychical realm, but the entire move- 
ment of the mind; he in fact incorporates everything down to existential prob- 
lems into it, running the gamut from syntheses to structures and from forms 

Presentation on Psychical Causality 129 

to phenomena. I even thought, God forgive me, I noticed that he used the 
expression "dialectical hierarchism"; the conceptual coupling of these two 
terms would, I believe, have made even the late Pichon himself wonder — 
Pichon, whose reputation will not be besmirched if I say that, to him, Hegel's 
very alphabet remained a dead letter. 

Ey 's moves are certainly spry, but we cannot follow them for long because 
we realize that the reality of psychical life is crushed in the noose — which is 
always similar and in fact always the same — that tightens all the more surely 
around our friend's thought the more he tries to free himself from it, denying 
him access to both the truth of the psyche and that of madness by a telling 

Indeed, when Ey begins to define this oh so marvelous psychical activity 
as "our personal adaptation to reality, " I start to feel that I have such sure views 
about the world that all my undertakings must be those of a clairvoyant prince. 
What could I possibly be incapable of accomplishing in the lofty realms where 
I reign? Nothing is impossible for man, says the Vaudois peasant with his inim- 
itable accent: if ever there is something he cannot do, he drops it. Should Ey 
carry me with his art of "psychical trajectory" into the "psychical field," and 
invite me to pause for a moment to consider with him "the trajectory in the 
field," I will persist in my happiness, because of my satisfaction at recogniz- 
ing formulations that are akin to ones I myself once provided — in the 
exordium to my doctoral thesis on the paranoiac psychoses, when I tried to 
define the phenomenon of personality — momentarily overlooking the fact that 
we are not aiming at the same ends. 

Of course, I wince a tad when I read that "for dualism" (still Cartesian, I 
presume) "the mind is a mind without existence," remembering as I do that 
the first judgment of certainty that Descartes bases on the consciousness that 
thinking has of itself is a pure judgment of existence: cogito ergo sum. I also get 
concerned when I come across the assertion that "according to materialism, 159 

the mind is an epiphenomenon," recalling as I do that form of materialism in 
which the mind immanent in matter is realized by the latter's very movement. 

But when, moving on to Ey's lecture on the notion of nervous disorders, 3 
I come upon "this level characterized by the creation of a properly psychical 
causality," and I learn that "the reality of the ego is concentrated there" and 
that through it, 

the structural duality of psychical life is consummated, a life of relations 
between the world and the ego, which is animated by the whole dialec- 
tical movement of the mind that is always striving — both in the order 
of action and in the theoretical order — to reduce this antinomy without 

i jo Ecrits 

ever managing to do so, or at the very least trying to reconcile and har- 
monize the demands made by objects, other people, the body, the 
Unconscious, and the conscious Subject, 

then I wake up and protest: the free play of my psychical activity by no means 
implies that I strive with such difficulty. For there is no antinomy whatsoever 
between the objects I perceive and my body, whose perception is constituted by 
a quite natural harmony with those objects. My unconscious leads me quite 
blithely to annoyances that I would hardly dream of attributing to it, at least not 
until I begin to concern myself with it through the refined means of psycho- 
analysis. And none of this stops me from behaving toward other people with 
irrefragable egoism, in the most sublime unconsciousness of my conscious Sub- 
ject. For as long as I do not try to reach the intoxicating sphere of oblativity that 
is so dear to French psychoanalysts, my naive experience does not set me the 
task of dealing with what La Rochefoucauld, in his perverse genius, detected in 
the fabric of all human sentiments, even that of love: pride [amour-propre]. 

All this "psychical activity" thus truly seems like a dream to me. Can this 
be the dream of a physician who has heard that hybrid chain unfurl in his ears 
thousands of times — that chain which is made of fate and inertia, throws of 
the dice and astonishment, false successes and missed encounters, and which 
makes up the usual script of a human life? 

No, it is rather the dream of an automaton maker, the likes of whom Ey and 
1 60 I used to make fun of in the past, Ey nicely quipping that hidden in every organi- 

cist conception of the psyche one always finds "the little man within the man" 
who is busy ensuring that the machine responds. 

What, dear Ey, are drops in the level of consciousness, hypnoid states, and 
physiological dissolutions, if not the fact that the little man within the man has 
a headache — that is, an ache in the other little man that he himself, no doubt, 
has in his head, and so on ad infinitum} Polyxena's age-old argument still holds, 
no matter how one takes man's being to be given, whether in its essence as an 
Idea, or in its existence as an organism. 

I am no longer dreaming now, but what I read next is that, 

projected into a still more mental reality, the world of ideal values — that 
are no longer integrated, but infinitely integrating — is constituted: 
beliefs, ideals, vital programs, and the values of logical judgment and 
moral conscience. 

I see quite clearly here that there are, indeed, beliefs and ideals that become 
linked in the same psyche to vital programs, which are just as repugnant to 

Presentation on Psychical Causality 131 

logical judgment as they are to moral conscience, in order to produce a fas- 
cist, or more simply an imbecile or a rascal. I conclude that the integrated form 
of these ideals implies no psychical culmination for them and that their inte- 
grating action bears no relation to their value — and thus that there must be a 
mistake here too. 

I certainly do not intend, gentlemen, to belittle the scope of your debates 
or the results you have reached. I would soon embarrass myself were I to under- 
estimate the difficulty of the issues involved. By mobilizing Gestalt theory, 
behaviorism, and structural and phenomenological terms in order to put 
organo-dynamism to the test, you have relied on scientific resources that I 
seem to neglect in resorting to principles that are perhaps a bit too certain and 
to an irony that is no doubt a bit risque. This is because it seemed to me that 
I could better help you untie the noose that I mentioned earlier by reducing 
the number of terms in the scales. But for this to be completely successful in 
the minds of those whom the noose holds fast, perhaps it should have been 
Socrates himself who came to speak to you here, or rather perhaps I should 
simply listen to you in silence. 

For the authentic dialectic in which you situate your terms and which gives 161 

your young Academy its style suffices to guarantee the rigor of your progress. 
I rely on this dialectic myself and feel far more at ease in it than in the idola- 
trous reverence for words seen to reign elsewhere, especially in psychoana- 
lysts' inner circles. But beware the echo your words may have outside the 
confines of the realm for which you intended them. 

The use of speech requires far more vigilance in human science than any- 
where else, because speech engages the very being of its object there. 

Every uncertain attitude toward truth inevitably ends up diverting our terms 
from their meaning and such abuse is never innocent. 

You publish — I apologize for bringing up a personal experience — an arti- 
cle entitled "Beyond the Reality Principle," in which you take on nothing less 
than the status of the psychological object, trying first to lay out a phenome- 
nology of the psychoanalytic relationship as it is experienced between doctor 
and patient. But what you hear back from your colleagues is considerations 
about the "relativity of reality," which make you rue the day you ever chose 
such a title. 

It was, as I know, with such misgivings that Politzer, the great thinker, 
decided not to provide the theoretical expression with which he would have 
left his indelible mark, in order to devote himself to an activity that was to take 
him away from us definitively. When, following in his footsteps, we demand 
that concrete psychology be established as a science, let us not lose sight of 
the fact that we are still only at the stage of formal pleas. I mean that we have 

132 Ecrits 

not yet been able to posit even the slightest law that accounts for the efficacy 
of our actions. 

This is so true that, when we begin to glimpse the operative meaning of the 
traces left by prehistoric man on the walls of his caves, the idea may occur to 
us that we really know less than him about what I will very intentionally call 
psychical matter. Since we cannot, like Deucalion, make men from stones, let 
us be careful not to transform words into stones. 

It would already be very nice if by a simple mental ploy we were able to 
see the concept of the object taking form, on which a scientific psychology 
162 could be based. It is the definition of such a concept that I have always declared 

to be necessary, that I have announced as forthcoming, and that — thanks to 
the problem you have presented me — I will try to pursue today, exposing 
myself in turn to your criticism. 

2. The Essential Causality of Madness 

What could be more suited to this end than to start out from the situation in 
which we find ourselves, gathered together, as we are here, to discuss the causal- 
ity of madness? Now, why this privilege? Is a madman more interesting to us 
than Gelb and Goldstein's case whom I mentioned earlier in broad strokes? 
The latter reveals — not only to the neurologist but also to the philosopher, 
and no doubt to the philosopher more so than to the neurologist — a structure 
that is constitutive of human knowledge, namely, the support that thought's 
symbolism finds in visual perception, and that I will call, following Husserl, 
a Fundierung, a foundational relationship. 

What other human value could lie in madness? 

When I defended my thesis on Paranoiac Psychosis as Related to Personal- 
ity, one of my professors asked me to indicate what, in a nutshell, I had pro- 
posed to do in it: "In short, sir," I began, "we cannot forget that madness is a 
phenomenon of thought ..." I am not suggesting that this sufficed to sum- 
marize my perspective, but the firm gesture with which he interrupted me was 
tantamount to a call for modesty: "Yeah! So what?" it meant, "Let's be seri- 
ous. Are you going to thumb your nose at us? Let us not dishonor this solemn 
moment. Num dignus eris intrare in nostro docto corpore cum isto voce: pensaref" 
I was nevertheless granted my Ph.D. and offered the kind of encouragement 
that it is appropriate to give to impulsive minds. 

Now, fourteen years later, I have the opportunity to summarize my per- 
spective for you. As you can see, at this rate the definition of the object of 
psychology will not get very far between now and the time I part company 
with the enlightened intellects [lumieres] that illuminate our world — unless 

Presentation on Psychical Causality ijj 

you take the torch from my hands, so please take it! At least I hope that, by 

now, the course of things has given these enlightened intellects themselves a 163 

hard enough time that none of them can still find in Bergson's work the 

expanding synthesis that satisfied the "intellectual needs" of a generation, or 

anything other than a rather curious collection of exercises in metaphysical 


Before we try to extract anything from the facts, we would do well, indeed, 
to recognize the very conditions of meaning that make them into facts for us. 
This is why I think that it would not be superfluous to call for a return to 

While Descartes does not look deeply into the phenomenon of madness in 
his Meditations^ I at least consider it telling that he encounters it in his very 
first steps, taken with unforgettable jubilance, on the pathway to truth. 

But on what grounds could one deny that these hands and this entire 
body are mine? Unless perhaps I were to liken myself to the insane, whose 
brains are impaired by such an unrelenting vapor of black bile that they 
steadfastly insist that they are kings when they are utter paupers, or that 
they are arrayed in purple robes when they are naked, or that they have 
heads made of clay, or that they are gourds, or that they are made of 
glass. But such people are mad, and I would appear no less mad, were I 
to take their behavior as an example for myself. 

He then moves on, whereas we will see that he could have delved more 
deeply into the phenomenon of madness, and it might well have been fruitful 
for him to do so. 

Let us then reconsider together this phenomenon according to Descartes' 
method. Not in the fashion of the revered professor who cut short the 
explanatory effusions not only of his students — but who even considered 
those of hallucinating patients to be so scandalous that he would interrupt 
them by saying: "What are you telling me, my friend? None of that is true. 
Come now!" From such an intervention we can at least draw a spark of mean- 
ing: truth is "involved." But at what point? Regarding the meaning of the 
word, we assuredly cannot trust any more in the mind of the doctor than in 
that of the patient. 

Instead, let us follow Ey who, like Descartes in his simple sentence, and at 
the time that probably was not accidental, highlights the essential mainspring 
of belief in his early works. 

Ey admirably realized that belief, with its ambiguity in human beings and 
its excess and inadequacy for knowledge [connaissance] — since it is less than 164 

iS4 Ecrits 

knowing [javozr], but perhaps more, for to assert is to make a commitment, 
but it is not the same as being sure — cannot be eliminated from the phenom- 
enon of hallucination and of delusion. 

However, phenomenological analysis demands that we not skip any steps, 
and precipitation is fatal to it. I will maintain that the figure only appears if 
we appropriately focus our thinking. Here Ey — in order to avoid the mistake, 
for which he reproaches mechanists, of becoming delusional along with the 
patient — makes the opposite mistake by all too quickly including a value judg- 
ment in the phenomenon; the abovementioned comic example, appropriately 
savored by him, should have warned him that this would simultaneously 
destroy any chance of understanding it. With some kind of dizzying mental 
move, he reduces the notion of belief, which he had right before his eyes, to 
that of error, which absorbs it like one drop of water absorbing another drop 
that is made to abut it. Hence, the whole operation backfires. Once the phe- 
nomenon is fixed in place, it becomes an object of judgment and, soon there- 
after, an object tout court. 

As he asks himself in his book, Hallucinations et Delire ("Hallucinations 
and Delusion"), 4 "Where would error, and delusion too, lie if patients did not 
make mistakes! Everything in their assertions and their judgment reveals their 
errors (interpretations, illusions, etc.) to us" (170). And further on, while set- 
ting out the two "attitudes that are possible" toward hallucination, he defines 
his own: 

Hallucination should be viewed as a mistake that must be admitted and 
explained as such without letting oneself be carried away by its mirage. 
And yet its mirage necessarily leads one, if one is not careful, to ground 
it in actual phenomena and thus to construct neurological hypotheses 
that are useless, at best, because they do not reach what lies at the heart 
of the symptom itself: error and delusion (176). 

How then could we be anything but astonished when, despite the fact that 
he is well aware of the temptation to base the "mirage of hallucination con- 
ceived of as an abnormal sensation" on a neurological hypothesis, he hurriedly 
bases what he calls "the fundamental error" of delusion on a similar hypoth- 
esis? Or when — although he is rightly loath (page 168) to make of hallucina- 
tion, qua abnormal sensation, "an object situated in the sulci of the brain" — he 
1 6 5 does not hesitate to locate the phenomenon of delusional belief, considered as 

a deficit phenomenon, in the brain himself? 

No matter how lofty the tradition within which his work is situated, it is 
nonetheless here then that he took the wrong path. He might have avoided 

Presentation on Psychical Causality ijS 

this by pausing before taking the leap that the very notion of truth ordained 
him to take. For while there can be no progress possible in knowledge unless 
this notion is behind it, it is part of the human condition, as we shall see, to 
ever risk going astray in following our best impulses. 

We could say that error is a deficit, in the sense this word has on a balance 
sheet, but the same does not go for belief, even if it deceives us. For belief can 
go awry even at the height of our intellectual powers, as Ey himself proves 

What then is (the phenomenon of) delusional belief? I say that it is mis- 
recognition, with everything this term brings with it by way of an essential 
antinomy. For to misrecognize presupposes recognition, as is seen in system- 
atic misrecognition, in which case we must certainly admit that what is denied 
is in some way recognized. 

Regarding the relationship between the phenomenon and the subject, Ey 
stresses — and one can never stress enough what is self-evident — that an 
hallucination is an error that is "kneaded from the dough of the subject's 
personality and shaped by his own activity." Aside from the reservations I 
have about the use of the words "dough" and "activity," it seems clear to 
me that the subject does not recognize his productions as his own when he 
has ideas of influence or feels that an automatism is at work. This is why 
we all agree that a madman is a madman. But isn't the remarkable thing, 
rather, that he should know anything about them at all? And isn't the point 
to figure out what he knows about himself here without recognizing him- 
self in it? 

Regarding the reality that the subject attributes to these phenomena, what 
is far more decisive than the sensorial quality he experiences in them, or the 
belief he attaches to them, is the fact that all of them — no matter which ones 
(whether hallucinations, interpretations, or intuitions) and no matter how for- 
eignly and strangely he experiences them — target him personally: they split 
him, talk back to him, echo him, and read in him, just as he identifies them, 
questions them, provokes them, and deciphers them. And when all means of 
expressing them fail him, his perplexity still manifests to us a questioning gap 
in him: which is to say that madness is experienced entirely within the regis- 166 

ter of meaning. 

The interest that madness thus kindles in us owing to its pathos provides a 
first answer to the question I raised about the human value of the phenome- 
non of madness. And its metaphysical import is revealed in the fact that it is 
inseparable from the problem of signification for being in general — that is, 
the problem of language for man. 

Indeed, no linguist or philosopher could any longer defend a theory of Ian- 

ij6 Ecrits 

guage as a system of signs that would double the system of realities, realities 
defined by the common assent of healthy minds in healthy bodies. I cannot 
think of anyone other than Charles Blondel who seems to believe this — see 
his book, La conscience morbide ("Morbid Consciousness"), which is certainly 
the most narrow-minded lucubration ever produced on either madness or lan- 
guage. He runs up against the problem of the ineffable, as if language did not 
posit this without the help of madness. 

Man's language, the instrument of his lies, is thoroughly ridden with the 
problem of truth: 

• whether it betrays the truth insofar as it is an expression of (a) his organic 
heredity in the phonology of the flatus vocis; (b) the "passions of his body" 
in the Cartesian sense, that is, of his soul, in the changes in his emotions; 
(c) and the culture and history that constitute his humanity, in the seman- 
tic system that formed him as a child; 

• or it manifests this truth as an intention, by eternally asking how what 
expresses the lie of his particularity can manage to formulate the univer- 
sality of his truth. 

The whole history of philosophy is inscribed in this question, from Plato's 
aporias of essence to Pascal's abysses of existence, and on to the radical ambi- 
guity Heidegger points to in it, insofar as truth signifies revelation. 

The word is not a sign, but a nodal point [noeud] of signification. When I 
say the word "curtain" [rideau], for example, it is not merely to designate by 
convention an object whose use can be varied in a thousand ways depending 
on the intentions of the artisan, shopkeeper, painter, or Gestalt psychologist — 
whether as labor, exchange value, colorful physiognomy, or spatial structure. 
Metaphorically, it is a curtain of rain [rideau d'arbres]; forging plays on words, 
167 it is when I am being curt and sweet or can curr tangentially with the best of 

them [les rides et les ris de Feau\ and my friend Curt Ans off [Leiris dominant] 
these glossological games better than I do. By decree, it is the limit of my domain 
or, on occasion, a screen for my meditation in a room I share with someone 
else. Miraculously, it is the space that opens onto infinity, the unknown at the 
threshold, or the solitary walker's morning departure. Apprehensively, it is 
the flutter that betrays Agrippina's presence at the Roman Empire 's Council, 
or Madame de Chasteller's gaze out the window as Lucien Leuwen passes by. 
Mistakenly, it is Polonius that I stab, shouting, "How now! a rat?" As an inter- 
jection, during the tragedy's intermission, it is my cry of impatience or the 
sign of my boredom: "Curtain!" It is, finally, an image of meaning qua mean- 
ing, which must be unveiled if it is to reveal itself. 

Presentation on Psychical Causality zj7 

In this sense, being's attitudes are justified and exposed in language, and 
among those attitudes "common sense" clearly manifests "the most commonly 
seen thing in the world," but not to the extent that it is recognized by those 
for whom Descartes is too easy on this point. 

This is why, in an anthropology that takes the register of culture in man 
to include, as is fitting, the register of nature, one could concretely define 
psychology as the domain of nonsense [I'insense], in other words, of every- 
thing that forms a knot in discourse — as is clearly indicated by the "words" 
of passion. 

Let us follow this path in order to study the significations of madness, as 
we are certainly invited to by the original forms that language takes on in it: 
all the verbal allusions, cabalistic relationships, homonymic play, and puns 
that captivated the likes of Guiraud. 5 And, I might add, by the singular accent 
whose resonance we must know how to hear in a word so as to detect a delu- 
sion; the transfiguration of a term in an ineffable intention; the fixation [fige- 
ment] of an idea in a semanteme (which tends to degenerate into a sign here 
specifically); the lexical hybrids; the verbal cancer constituted by neolo- 
gisms; the bogging down of syntax; the duplicity of enunciation; but also the 
coherence that amounts to a logic, the characteristic, running from the unity 
of a style to repetitive terms, that marks each form of delusion — the madman 1 68 

communicates with us through all of this, whether in speech or writing. 

It is here that the structures of the madman's knowledge must reveal 
themselves to us. And it is odd, though probably not coincidental, that it was 
mechanists like Clerambault and Guiraud who outlined them best. As false as 
the theory in which these authors included them may be, it made them 
remarkably attuned to an essential phenomenon of such structures: the kind 
of "anatomy" that manifests itself in them. Clerambault 's constant reference 
in his analysis to what he calls, with a slightly Diafoirus-like term, "the 
ideogenic," is nothing but a search for the limits of signification. Employing 
a method involving nothing but comprehension, he paradoxically manages 
to display the magnificent range of structures that runs the gamut from the 
so-called "postulates " of the delusions of passion to the so-called basal phe- 
nomena of mental automatism. 

This is why I think that he has done more than anyone else to support the 
hypothesis of the psychogenesis of madness; in any case, you will see what I 
mean by this shortly. 

Clerambault was my only master in the observation of patients, after the 
very subtle and delectable Trenel, whom I made the mistake of abandoning 
too soon, in order to seek a position in the consecrated spheres of professo- 
rial ignorance. 

ijS Ecrits 

I claim to have followed his method in the analysis of the case of paranoiac 
psychosis discussed in my thesis; I demonstrated the psychogenic structure of 
the case and designated its clinical entity with the more or less valid term of 
"self-punishing paranoia." 

This patient had caught my interest because of the impassioned significa- 
tion of her written productions, whose literary value struck many writers, from 
Fargue and dear Crevel, both of whom read them before anyone else, to Joe 
Bousquet, who immediately and admirably commented on them, 6 to Eluard, 
who more recently published some of them in a collection of "involuntary" 
poetry. 7 It is now well known that the name, Aimee, with which I disguised 
her identity, is that of the central figure in her fictional creation. 

If I assemble here the results of the analysis I did of her case, it is because 
I believe that a phenomenology of madness, which is complete in its terms, 
can already be seen to emerge from it. 
169 The structural points that prove to be essential in this analysis can be for- 

mulated as follows: 

(a) The succession of female persecutors in her history repeated almost 
without variation the personification of a maleficent ideal, and her need to 
aggressively strike out at this ideal kept growing. 

However, not only did she constantly seek to curry both favor and abuse 
from the people to whom she had access in reality who incarnated this stereo- 
type, but in her behavior she tended to carry out, without recognizing it, the 
very evildoing she denounced in them: vanity, coldness, and abandonment of 
one 's natural duties. 

(b) She presented herself, on the contrary, as upholding the completely 
opposite ideal of purity and devotion, which made her a victim of the schemes 
of the being she detested. 

(c) We also note a neutralization of the sexual category with which she 
identified. This neutralization — which was confessed in her writings and taken 
at least as far as sexual ambiguity, and perhaps as far as imagined homosexu- 
ality — is coherent with the Platonic nature of the classical erotomania she 
manifested toward several male personifications, and with the prevalence of 
female friends in her real life. 

(d) The latter was characterized by an indecisive struggle to achieve an 
ordinary existence, all the while maintaining ideals that I will call Bovary- 
like, without intending anything disparaging by the term. 

Her older sister's progressive intervention in her life then little by little 
enucleated her completely from her place as wife and mother. 

(e) This intervention effectively released her from her familial duties. 
But as this "liberated" her, her delusional phenomena were triggered and 

Presentation on Psychical Causality 139 

took shape, reaching their apex when, with the help of their very impact, she 
found herself completely independent. 

(f ) These phenomena appeared in a series of spurts that I designated as 
fertile moments of the delusion, a term that some researchers have been will- 
ing to adopt. 

Part of the resistance I encountered to people understanding the "elemen- 170 

tary" nature of these moments in a thesis on the psychogenesis [of paranoia] 
would, it seems to me, be mitigated now due to the more profound work on 
the subject that I did subsequently — as I will show shortly, to the extent to 
which I can do so while providing a balanced presentation. 

(g) It should be noted that, although the patient seemed to suffer from the 
fact that her child was taken away from her by her sister — who even struck 
me as bad news in the one meeting I had with her — she refused to consider 
her sister as hostile or even harmful to herself, on this account or any other. 

Instead, with a murderous intent she stabbed the person with whom she 
had most recently identified her female persecutors. The effect of this act — 
once she realized the high price she would have to pay for it in prison — was 
the implosion of the beliefs and fantasies involved in her delusion. 

I tried thus to delineate the psychosis in relation to all of her earlier life 
events, her intentions, whether admitted or not, and, lastly, the motives, 
whether perceived by her or not, that emerged from the situation contempo- 
raneous with her delusion — in other words, in relation to her personality (as 
the title of my thesis indicates). 

This seems to me to bring out the general structure of misrecognition, right 
from the outset. Still, this must be understood correctly. 

Assuredly, one can say that the madman believes he is different [autre] than 
he is. Descartes said as much in his sentence about those who believe "that they 
are arrayed in gold and purple robes," where he conformed to the most anec- 
dotal of all stories about madmen; this also seemed to satisfy the authority on 
the matter who wrote that the phenomenon olbovarism, adapted to the degree 
of his sympathy for his patients, was the key to understanding paranoia. 

However, apart from the fact that Jules de Gaultier's theory concerns one 
of most normal relations of human personality — namely, its ideals — it should 
be noted that if a man who thinks he is a king is mad, a king who thinks he is 
a king is no less so. 

This is proven by the example of Louis II of Bavaria and a few other royal 
personages, as well as by everyone's "common sense," in the name of which 
we justifiably demand that people put in such situations "play their parts well," 171 

but are uncomfortable with the idea that they really "believe in them," even 
if this involves a lofty view of their duty to incarnate a function in the world 

140 Ecrits 

order, through which they assume rather well the figure of chosen victims. 

The turning point here lies in the mediacy or immediacy of the identifica- 
tion and, to be quite explicit, in the subject's infatuation. 

To make myself clear, I will evoke the likable figure of the young dandy, 
born to a well-to-do family, who, as they say, "hasn't a clue," especially about 
what he owes to this good fortune. Common sense is in the habit of charac- 
terizing him as either a "happy fool" or as a "little moron," depending on the 
case. // "se emit" as we say in French (he "thinks he 's really something"): the 
genius of the language puts the emphasis here where it should go, that is, not 
on the inapplicability of an attribute, but on a verbal mode. For, all in all, the 
subject thinks he is [se croit] what he is — a lucky little devil — but common 
sense secretly wishes him a hitch that will show him that he is not one as much 
as he thinks he is. Don't think that I am being witty, certainly not with the 
quality of wit that shows in the saying that Napoleon was someone who thought 
he was Napoleon. Because Napoleon did not think he was Napoleon at all, 
since he knew full well by what means Bonaparte had produced Napoleon and 
how Napoleon, like Malebranche 's God, sustained his existence at every 
moment. If he ever thought he was Napoleon, it was at the moment that Jupiter 
had decided to bring him down; once fallen, he spent his spare time lying to 
Las Cases in as many pages as you could want, so that posterity would think 
that he had thought he was Napoleon — a necessary condition for convincing 
posterity that he had truly been Napoleon. 

Do not think that I am getting off on a tangent here in a talk designed to 
go right to the heart of the dialectic of being — because the essential mis- 
recognition involved in madness is situated at just such a point, as my patient 
made perfectly clear. 

This misrecognition can be seen in the revolt through which the madman 
seeks to impose the law of his heart onto what seems to him to be the havoc 
[desordre] of the world. This is an "insane" enterprise — but not because it sug- 
gests a failure to adapt to life, which is the kind of thing people often say in 
172 our circles, whereas the slightest reflection on our experience proves the dis- 

honorable inanity of such a viewpoint. It is an insane enterprise, rather, in that 
the subject does not recognize in this havoc the very manifestation of his actual 
being, or that what he experiences as the law of his heart is but the inverted 
and virtual image of that same being. He thus doubly misrecognizes it, pre- 
cisely so as to split its actuality from its virtuality. Now, he can escape this actu- 
ality only via this virtuality. His being is thus caught in a circle, unless he breaks 
it through some form of violence by which, in lashing out at what he takes to 
be the havoc, he ends up harming himself because of the social repercussions 
of his actions. 

Presentation on Psychical Causality 141 

This is the general formulation of madness as we find it in Hegel's work 8 — 
just because I felt it necessary to illustrate it for you does not mean that I am 
innovating here. It is the general formulation of madness in the sense that it 
can be seen to apply in particular to any one of the phases in which the dialec- 
tical development of human beings more or less occurs in each person's des- 
tiny; and in the sense that it always appears in this development as a moment 
of stasis, for being succumbs to stasis in an ideal identification that character- 
izes this moment in a particular person's destiny. 

This identification, the unmediated and "infatuated" nature of which I tried 
to convey a moment ago, turns out to be the relation of being to the very best 
in it, since this ideal represents that being's freedom. 

To put this more gallantly, I could demonstrate it to you with the example 
Hegel recalled to mind in presenting this analysis in his Phenomenology of 
Spirit* — that is, if I recall correctly, in 1806, while he was awaiting (let this be 
noted in passing to be added to a file I just opened) the approach of the Welt- 
seele, the World Soul, which he saw in Napoleon — with the precise aim of 
revealing to Napoleon what Napoleon had the honor of thus incarnating, even 1 73 

though he seemed profoundly unaware of it. The example I am talking about 
is the character Karl Moor, the hero in Schiller's Robbers, who is well known 
to every German. 

More familiar to us and, also, more amusing in my book, is Moliere 's Alceste 
[from The Misanthrope], But before using it as an example, I must mention 
that the very fact that he has never ceased to be a problem for our highbrow 
literati nourished in the "classics," since his first appearance, proves that the 
things I talk about are not nearly as useless as these highbrow literati would 
have us believe when they call them pedantic — less, no doubt, to spare them- 
selves the effort of understanding them than to spare themselves the painful 
conclusions they would have to draw from them for themselves about their 
society, once they understood them. 

It all stems from the fact that Alceste 's "beautiful soul" exerts a fascination 
on the highbrow literati that the latter, "steeped in the classics," cannot resist. 
Does Moliere thus approve of Philinte 's high society indulgence? "That's just 
not possible!" some cry, while others must acknowledge, in the disabused 
strains of wisdom, that it surely must be the case at the rate things are going. 

I believe that the question does not concern Philinte 's wisdom, and the solu- 
tion would perhaps shock these gentlemen, for the fact is that Alceste is mad 
and that Moliere demonstrates that he is — precisely insofar as Alceste, in his 
beautiful soul, does not recognize that he himself contributes to the havoc he 
revolts against. 

I specify that he is mad, not because he loves a woman who is flirtatious 

142 Ecrits 

and betrays him — which is something the learned analysts I mentioned ear- 
lier would no doubt attribute to his failure to adapt to life — but because he is 
caught, under Love's banner, by the very feeling that directs this art of 
mirages at which the beautiful Celimene excels: namely, the narcissism of the 
idle rich that defines the psychological structure of "high society" [ "monde "] 
in all eras, which is doubled here by the other narcissism that is especially man- 
ifest in certain eras in the collective idealization of the feeling of being in love. 
Celimene, at the mirror's focal point, and her admirers, forming a radiat- 
ing circumference around her, indulge in the play of these passions [feux], 
Alceste does too, no less than the others, for if he does not tolerate its lies, it 
174 is simply because his narcissism is more demanding. Of course, he expresses 

it to himself in the form of the law of the heart: 

I'd have them be sincere, and never part 
With any word that isn 'tfrom the heart. 

Yes, but when his heart speaks, it makes some strange exclamations. For 
example, when Philinte asks him, "You think then that she loves you?," 
Alceste replies, "Heavens, yes! I wouldn't love her did I not think so." 

I suspect that Clerambault would have recognized this reply as having more 
to do with a delusion of passion than with love. 

And no matter how widespread the fantasy may be in such passions of the 
test of the loved object's fall from grace, I find that it has an odd accent in 
Alceste 's case: 

/ love you more than can be said or thought; 
Indeed, I wish you were in such distress 
That I might show to all my devotedness. 
Yes, I could wish that you were wretchedly poor, 
Unloved, uncherished, utterly obscure; 
That fate had set you down upon the earth 
Without possessions, rank, or gentle birth . . . 

With this lovely wish and the taste he has for the song "J'aime mieux ma 
mie," why doesn't he court a salesgirl at his local flower shop? He would not 
be able to "show to all" his love for such a girl, and this is the true key to the 
feeling he expresses here: it is the passion to demonstrate his unicity to every- 
one, even if only in the form of the isolation of a victim, an isolation in which 
he finds bitter, jubilatory satisfaction in the final act of the play. 

As for the mainspring of his twists and turns, it lies in a mechanism that I 

Presentation on Psychical Causality 143 

would relate not to the self-punishment but rather to the suicidal aggression of 

For what infuriates Alceste upon hearing Oronte 's sonnet is that he recog- 
nizes his own situation in it, depicted all too precisely in its ridiculousness, and 175 
the imbecile who is his rival appears to him as his own mirror image. The words 
of mad fury to which he then gives vent blatantly betray the fact that he seeks 
to lash out at himself. And whenever one of the repercussions of his words 
shows him that he has managed to do so, he delights in suffering its effect. 

Here we can note an odd defect in Ey's conception: it diverts him from the 
signification of the delusional act, leaving him to take it as the contingent effect 
of a lack of control, whereas the problem of this act's signification is constantly 
brought to our attention by the medical and legal exigencies that are essential 
to the phenomenology of our experience. 

Someone like Guiraud, who is a mechanist, again goes much farther in his 
article, "Meurtres immotives" ("Unexplained Murders"), 10 when he attempts 
to show that it is precisely the kakon of his own being that the madman tries 
to get at in the object he strikes. 

Let us take one last look at Alceste who has victimized no one but himself 
and let us hope he finds what he is looking for, namely: 

. . . some spot unpeopled and apart 
Where I'll be free to have an honest heart. 

I want to examine the word "free" here. For it is not simply by way of deri- 
sion that the impeccable rigor of classical comedy makes it appear here. 

The import of the drama that classical comedy expresses cannot, in effect, 
be measured by the narrowness of the action in which it takes shape, and — 
like Descartes' lofty march in the "Secret Note" in which he declares himself 
to be on the verge of becoming a player on the world scene — it "advances 
behind a mask." 

Instead of Alceste, I could have looked for the play of the law of the heart 
in the fate that put the old revolutionary of 1917 in the dock at the Moscow 
trials. But what is demonstrated in the poet's imaginary space is metaphysi- 
cally comparable to the world's bloodiest events, since it is what causes blood 
to be spilled in the world. 

I am not thus avoiding the social tragedy that dominates our era, but my 
marionette's acting will show each of us more clearly the risk he is tempted 176 

to run whenever freedom is at stake. 

For the risk of madness is gauged by the very appeal of the identifications 
on which man stakes both his truth and his being. 

144 Ecrits 

Thus rather than resulting from a contingent fact — the frailties of his organ- 
ism — madness is the permanent virtuality of a gap opened up in his essence. 

And far from being an "insult" 11 to freedom, madness is freedom's most 
faithful companion, following its every move like a shadow. 

Not only can man's being not be understood without madness, but it would 
not be man's being if it did not bear madness within itself as the limit of his 

It is certainly true — to interrupt this serious talk with something humor- 
ous from my youth, which I wrote in a pithy form on the wall in the hospital 
staff room — that "Not just anyone can go mad" [ "Ne devientpasfou quiveut"]. 

But it is also true that not just anyone who wants to can run the risks that 
enshroud madness. 

A weak organism, a deranged imagination, and conflicts beyond one's 
capacities do not suffice to cause madness. It may well be that a rock-solid 
body, powerful identifications, and the indulgence of fate, as written in the 
stars, lead one more surely to find madness seductive. 

This conception at least has the immediate benefit of dispelling the prob- 
lematic emphasis placed in the nineteenth century on the madness of superior 
individuals — and of putting a stop to the low blows Homais and Bournisien 
exchanged regarding the madness of saints and freedom fighters. 

For while Pinel's work has — thank God! — made us act more humanely 
toward ordinary madmen, it must be acknowledged that it has not increased 
our respect for the madness involved in taking supreme risks. 

In any case, Homais and Bournisien represent one and the same manifes- 
tation of being. Isn't it striking that we laugh only at the first? I defy you to 
explain this fact otherwise than with the significant distinction I pointed out 
earlier. Because Homais "believes in it" ["y croit"] whereas Bournisien, who 
1 77 is equally stupid but not mad, justifies his belief and, being backed by his hier- 

archy, maintains a distance between himself and his truth in which he can come 
to an agreement with Homais, assuming the latter "becomes reasonable" by 
recognizing the reality of "spiritual needs." 

Having thus disarmed both him and his adversary thanks to my under- 
standing of madness, I recover the right to evoke the hallucinatory voices heard 
by Joan of Arc and what took place on the road to Damascus, without anyone 
being able to summon me to change the tone of my real voice, or to go into 
an altered state of consciousness [etat second] to exercise my judgment. 

Having arrived at this point in my talk on the causality of madness, mustn't 
I be careful so that heaven may keep me from going awry? Mustn't I realize 
that, after having argued that Henry Ey misrecognizes the causality of mad- 

Presentation on Psychical Causality 145 

ness, and that he is not Napoleon, I am falling into the trap of proposing as 
ultimate proof thereof that I am the one who understands this causality, in 
other words, that I am Napoleon? 

I don't think, however, that this is my point, because it seems to me that, 
by being careful to maintain the right human distances that constitute our expe- 
rience of madness, I have obeyed the law which literally brings the apparent 
facts of madness into existence. Without this, the physician — like the one I 
mentioned who replied to the madman that what he said was not true — would 
rave no less than the madman himself. 

And when, for this occasion, I reread the case write-up on which I have 
relied here, it seemed to me that it bore witness to the fact that, no matter how 
one judges its results, I maintained for my object the respect she deserved as 
a human being, as a patient, and as a case. 

Lastly, I believe that in relegating the causality of madness to the unsound- 
able decision of being in which human beings understand or fail to recognize 
their liberation, in the snare of fate that deceives them about a freedom they 
have not in the least conquered, I am merely formulating the law of our becom- 
ing as it is expressed in Antiquity's formulation: Tevoi, oioc; eaai. 

In order to define psychical causality in this law, I will now try to grasp the 
mode of form and action that establishes the determinations of this drama, 
since I think it can be identified scientifically with the concept of "imagos." 

3. The Psychical Effects of the Imaginary Mode 178 

A subject's history develops in a more or less typical series of ideal identifica- 
tions that represent the purest of psychical phenomena in that they essentially 
reveal the function of imagos. I do not conceptualize the ego otherwise than 
as a central system of these formations, a system that one must understand, 
like these formations, in its imaginary structure and libidinal value. 

Thus, without dwelling on those who, even in the sciences, blithely con- 
fuse the ego with the subject's being, you can see where I diverge from the 
most common conception that identifies the ego with the synthesis of the organ- 
ism's relational functions, a conception which must certainly be called hybrid 
in that a subjective synthesis is defined in it in objective terms. 

One recognizes Ey's position here, as it is expressed in the passage I men- 
tioned earlier where he posits "an attack on the ego which, once again, is indis- 
tinguishable, in the final analysis, from the notion of functional dissolution." 

Can one reproach him for this conception when the bias of parallelism is 
so strong that Freud himself remained its prisoner, even though it ran counter 

146 Ecrits 

to the entire tendency of his research? To have attacked this bias in Freud's 
time might, moreover, have amounted to preventing oneself from communi- 
cating one 's ideas to the scientific community. 

It is well known that Freud identified the ego with the "perception-con- 
sciousness system," which comprises all of the systems by which an organism 
is adapted to the "reality principle." 12 

If we think about the role played by the notion of error in Ey's conception, 
we can see the bond that ties the organicist illusion to a realist metapsychol- 
ogy. This does not, however, bring us any closer to a concrete psychology. 

Moreover, although the best minds in psychoanalysis avidly demand, if we 

179 are to believe them, a theory of the ego, there is little chance that its place will 

be marked by anything other than a gaping hole as long as they do not resolve 

to consider obsolete what is clearly obsolete in the work of a peerless master. 

For Merleau-Ponty's work 13 decisively demonstrates that any healthy 
phenomenology, that of perception, for instance, requires us to consider lived 
experience prior to any objectification and even prior to any reflexive analy- 
sis that interweaves objectification and experience. Let me explain what I 
mean: the slightest visual illusion proves to force itself upon us experientially 
before detailed, piecemeal observation of the figure corrects it; it is the lat- 
ter that allows us to objectify the so-called real form. Reflection makes us rec- 
ognize in this form the a priori category of extension \L 9 etendue\ the property 
of which is precisely to present itself "partes extra partes" but it is still the 
illusion in itself that gives us the gestalt action that is psychology's true object 

This is why no considerations about ego synthesis can excuse us from con- 
sidering the phenomenon of synthesis in the subject — namely, everything the 
subject includes under this term, which is not exactly synthetic, nor even exempt 
from contradiction, as we learned from Montaigne, and learned even better 
when Freud designated it as the very locus of Verneinung. The latter is the 
phenomenon by which the subject reveals one of his impulses in his very denial 
[denegation] of it and at the very moment at which he denies it. Let me empha- 
size that it is not a disavowal of membership that is at stake here, but a formal 
negation — in other words, a typical phenomenon of misrecognition, and in 
the inverted form I have stressed. The most common expression of this form, 
"Don't think that . . . ," already points to the profound relationship with the 
other as such that I will bring out in the ego. 

Doesn't experience thus show us, upon the slightest inspection, that noth- 
ing separates the ego from its ideal forms {Ich Ideal, a term with which Freud 
recovers his rights) and that everything limits it on the side of the being it rep- 

Presentation on Psychical Causality 14J 

resents, since almost the entire life of the organism escapes it, not merely inso- 180 

far as that life is most often ignored, but insofar as the ego need know noth- 
ing about it for the most part. 

As for the genetic psychology of the ego, the results that it has obtained 
seem all the more valid to me since they are stripped of any postulate of func- 
tional integration. 

I myself have given proof of this in my study of the phenomena typical of 
what I call the fertile moments of delusion. Carried out according to the phe- 
nomenological method that I am promoting here, this study led me to analy- 
ses from which my conception of the ego has progressively emerged; this 
progressive emergence was visible to my audiences at the lectures and classes 
I gave over the years at conferences organized by the Evolution Psychiatrique 
group, at the Medical School Clinic, and at the Institute of Psychoanalysis. 
Although for my own reasons those lectures and classes have remained 
unpublished, they nevertheless publicized my term "paranoiac knowledge," 
which was designed to hit home. 

By including under this heading one of the fundamental structures of these 
phenomena, I intended to indicate that, if it is not equivalent, it is at least akin 
to a form of relation to the world that has a very specific import: the reaction 
recognized by psychiatrists that has been psychologically generalized with the 
term "transitivism." Now, this reaction — which is never completely eliminated 
from man's world, in its most idealized forms (for example, in relations of 
rivalry) — first manifests itself as the matrix of the ego's Urbild. 

This reaction significantly dominates the primordial phase in which the child 
becomes aware of his individuality; his language translates this, as you know, 
into the third person prior to translating it into the first person. Charlotte Biih- 
ler, 14 to mention only her, in observing the behavior of a child with its play- 
mate, has recognized this transitivism in the striking form of a child being truly 
captured by another child's image. 

A child can thus, in a complete trance-like state, share in his friend's tum- 
ble or attribute to him, without lying, the punch he himself has given his friend. 
I will skip the series of these phenomena, which run the gamut from spectac- 181 

ular identification to mimetic suggestion and on to the seduction of bearing. 
All of them are understood by Biihler in the dialectic that goes from jealousy 
(the jealousy whose instructive value Saint Augustine already glimpsed in a 
flash) to the first forms of sympathy. They are inscribed in a primordial ambiva- 
lence that seems to me, as I am already indicating, to be mirrored, in the sense 
that the subject identifies, in his feeling of Self, with the other's image and that 
the other's image captivates this feeling in him. 

148 Ecrits 

Now this reaction occurs only under one condition: the difference in age 
between the two children must remain below a certain limit, a limit that can- 
not exceed one year at the beginning of the phase studied. 

We already see here an essential feature of an imago/ the observable effects 
of a form, in the broadest sense of the term, that can only be defined in terms 
of generic resemblance, thus implying that a certain recognition occurred prior 
to that. 

We know that these effects manifest themselves in relation to the human 
face right from the tenth day after birth, that is, right from the appearance of 
the first visual reactions and prior to any other experience than that of blind 

Thus, and this is an essential point, the first effect of the imago that appears 
in human beings is that of the subject's alienation. It is in the other that the 
subject first identifies himself and even experiences himself. This phenome- 
non will seem less surprising if we recall the fundamental social conditions of 
the human Umwelt and if we evoke the intuition that dominates all of Hegel's 

Man's very desire is constituted, he tells us, under the sign of mediation: it 
is the desire to have one 's desire recognized. Its object is a desire, that of other 
people, in the sense that man has no object that is constituted for his desire 
without some mediation. This is clear from his earliest needs, in that, for exam- 
ple, his very food must be prepared; and we find this anew in the whole devel- 
opment of his satisfaction, beginning with the conflict between master and 
slave, through the entire dialectic of labor. 

This dialectic, which is that of man's very being, must bring about, through 
182 a series of crises, the synthesis of his particularity and his universality, going 

so far as to universalize this very particularity. 

This means that, in the movement that leads man to an ever more adequate 
consciousness of himself, his freedom becomes bound up with the develop- 
ment of his servitude. 

Does the imago then serve to instate a fundamental relationship in being 
between his reality and his organism? Does man's psychical life show us a sim- 
ilar phenomenon in any other forms? 

No experience has contributed more than psychoanalysis to revealing this 
phenomenon. And the necessity of repetition that psychoanalysis points to as 
the effect of the [Oedipus] complex — even though analytic doctrine expresses 
this with the inert and unthinkable notion of the unconscious — is sufficiently 
eloquent here. 

Habit and forgetting are signs of the integration of a psychical relation into 
the organism; an entire situation, having become both unknown to the sub- 

Presentation on Psychical Causality z^9 

ject and as essential as his body to him, is normally manifested in effects that 
are consistent with the sense he has of his body. 

The Oedipus complex turns out, in analytic experience, to be capable not 
only of provoking, by its atypical impact, all the somatic effects of hysteria, 
but also of normally constituting the sense of reality. 

The father represents a function of both power and temperament simulta- 
neously; an imperative that is no longer blind but "categorical"; and a person 
who dominates and arbitrates the avid wrenching and jealous ambivalence 
that were at the core of the child's first relations with its mother and its sib- 
ling rival. And he seems all the more to represent this the more he is "on the 
sidelines" of the first affective apprehensions. The effects of his appearance 
are expressed in various manners in analytic doctrine, but they obviously 
appear skewed there by their traumatizing impact, for it was the latter that 
first allowed these effects to be perceived by analysis. It seems to me that they 
can be most generally expressed as follows: The new image makes a world of 
persons "flocculate" in the subject; insofar as they represent centers of auton- 
omy, they completely change the structure of reality for him. 

I would not hesitate to say that one could demonstrate that the Oedipal 
crisis has physiological echoes, and that, however purely psychological its 183 

mainspring may be, a certain "dose of Oedipus" can be considered to have 
the same humoral efficacy as the absorption of a desensitizing medication. 

Furthermore, the decisive role of an affective experience of this kind for 
the constitution of the world of reality as regards the categories of time and 
space is so obvious that even someone like Bertrand Russell, in his essay The 
Analysis of Mind ^ with its radically mechanistic inspiration, cannot avoid 
admitting, in his genetic theory of perception, the function of "feelings of dis- 
tance" which, with the sense of the concrete that is characteristic of Anglo- 
Saxons, he relates to the "feeling of respect." 

I stressed this significant feature in my doctoral thesis, when I attempted 
to account for the structure of the "elementary phenomena" of paranoiac 

Suffice it to say that my examination of these phenomena led me to com- 
plete the catalogue of the structures — symbolism, condensation, and others — 
that Freud had explained as those of the imaginary mode, to use my own 
terminology. I sincerely hope that people will soon stop using the word 
"unconscious" to designate what manifests itself in consciousness. 

I realized (and why don't I ask you to look at my chapter, 16 since it bears 
witness to the authentic groping involved in my research), in considering the 
case history of my patient, that it is impossible to situate, through the anam- 
nesis, the exact time and place at which certain intuitions, memory illusions, 

i5o Ecrits 

convictive resentments, and imaginary objectifications occurred that could 
only be attributed to the fertile moment of the delusion taken as a whole. I will 
illustrate this by mentioning the column and photograph that my patient 
remembered, during one of these periods, having been struck by some months 
before in a certain newspaper, but which she was unable to find when she went 
through the complete collection of months of its daily papers. I supposed that 
these phenomena were originally experienced as reminiscences, iterations, 
184 series, and mirror games — it being impossible for the subject to situate their 

very occurrence in objective time and space with any more precision than she 
could situate her dreams in them. 

We are thus nearing a structural analysis of an imaginary space and time 
as well as the connections between them. 

Returning to my notion of paranoiac knowledge, I tried to conceptualize 
the network structure, the relations of participation, the aligned perspectives, 
and the palace of mirages that reign in the limbo regions of the world that the 
Oedipus complex causes to fade into forgetting. 

I have often taken a stand against the hazardous manner in which Freud 
sociologically interpreted the Oedipus complex — that very important dis- 
covery about the human mind that we owe to him. I think that the Oedipus 
complex did not appear with the origin of man (assuming it is not altogether 
senseless to try to write the history of this complex), but at the threshold of 
history, of "historical" history, at the limit of "ethnographic" cultures. It can 
obviously appear only in the patriarchal form of the family as an institution, 
but it nevertheless has an indisputably liminary value. I am convinced that its 
function had to be served by initiatory experiences in cultures that excluded 
it, as ethnology allows us to see even today. And its value in bringing a psy- 
chical cycle to a close stems from the fact that it represents the family situa- 
tion, insofar as the latter, by its institution, marks the intersection of the 
biological and the social in the cultural. 

However, the structure that is characteristic of the human world — insofar 
as it involves the existence of objects that are independent of the actual field 
of the tendencies and that can be used both symbolically and instrumentally — 
appears in man from the very first phases of development. How can we con- 
ceive of its psychological genesis? 

My construction known as "the mirror stage" — or, as it would be better to 
say, "the mirror phase" — addresses such a problem. 

I duly presented it at the Marienbad Congress in 1936, at least up to the 
point, coinciding exactly with the fourth stroke of the ten-minute mark, at 
which I was interrupted by Ernest Jones who was presiding over the congress. 
He was doing so as president of the London Psycho-Analytical Society, a posi- 

Presentation on Psychical Causality i5i 

tion for which he was no doubt qualified by the fact that I have never encoun- 
tered a single English colleague of his who didn't have something unpleasant 185 
to say about his character. Nevertheless, the members of the Viennese group 
who were gathered there, like birds right before their impending migration, 
gave my expose a rather warm reception. I did not submit my paper for inclu- 
sion in the proceedings of the congress; you can find the gist of it in a few lines 
in my article about the family published in 1938 in the Encyclopedic Frangaise, 
in the volume on "The Life of the Mind." 17 

My aim there was to indicate the connection between a number of funda- 
mental imaginary relations in an exemplary behavior characteristic of a cer- 
tain phase of development. 

This behavior is none other than that of the human infant before its image 
in the mirror starting at the age of six months, which is so strikingly different 
from the behavior of a chimpanzee, whose development in the instrumental 
application of intelligence the infant is far from having reached. 

What I have called the triumphant assumption [assomption] of the image 
with the jubilatory mimicry that accompanies it and the playful indulgence in 
controlling the specular identification, after the briefest experimental verifi- 
cation of the nonexistence of the image behind the mirror, in contrast with the 
opposite phenomena in the monkey — these seemed to me to manifest one of 
the facts of identificatory capture by the imago that I was seeking to isolate. 

It was very directly related to the image of the human being that I had already 
encountered in the earliest organization of human knowledge. 

This idea has gained ground and has been corroborated by other 
researchers, among whom I will cite Lhermitte, whose 1939 book published 
the findings of the work he had devoted for many years to the singularity and 
autonomy in the psyche of the image of one's own body. 

An enormous series of subjective phenomena revolve around this image, 
running the gamut from the amputee 's illusion to the hallucination of one 's 
double, including the latter's appearance in dreams and the delusional objec- 
tifications that go with it. But what is most important is still its autonomy as 
the imaginary locus of reference for proprioceptive sensations, that can be 186 

found in all kinds of phenomena, of which Aristotle 's illusion is only one 

Gestalt theory and phenomenology also contribute to the file of data 
related to this image. And all sorts of imaginary mirages of concrete psy- 
chology, which are familiar to psychoanalysts, ranging from sexual games to 
moral ambiguities, remind one of my mirror stage by virtue of the image and 
the magical power of language. "Hey," one says to oneself, "that reminds me 
of Lacan's thing, the mirror stage. What exactly did he say about it?" 

i52 Ecrits 

I have, in fact, taken my conception of the existential meaning of the phe- 
nomenon a bit further by understanding it in relation to what I have called 
man 3 s prematurity at birth, in other words, the incompleteness and "delay" in 
the development of the central nervous system during the first six months of 
life. These phenomena are well known to anatomists and have, moreover, been 
obvious, since man's first appearance, in the nursling's lack of motor coor- 
dination and balance; the latter is probably not unrelated to the process of 
"fetalization," which Bolk considered to be the mainspring of the higher devel- 
opment of the encephalic vesicles in man. 

It is owing to this delay in development that the early maturation of visual 
perception takes on the role of functional anticipation. This results, on the one 
hand, in the marked prevalence of visual structure in recognition of the human 
form, which begins so early, as I mentioned before. On the other hand, the 
odds of identifying with this form, if I may say so, receive decisive support 
from this, which comes to constitute the absolutely essential imaginary knot 
in man that psychoanalysis — obscurely and despite inextricable doctrinal 
contradictions — has admirably designated as "narcissism." 

Indeed, the relation of the image to the suicidal tendency essentially 
expressed in the myth of Narcissus lies in this knot. This suicidal tendency — 
which represents in my opinion what Freud sought to situate in his metapsy- 
chology with the terms "death instinct" and "primary masochism" — depends, 
in my view, on the fact that man's death, long before it is reflected (in a way 
that is, moreover, always so ambiguous) in his thinking, is experienced by him 
187 in the earliest phase of misery that he goes through from the trauma of birth 

until the end of the first six months of physiological prematurity, and that echoes 
later in the trauma of weaning. 

It is one of the most brilliant features of Freud's intuition regarding the 
order of the psychical world that he grasped the revelatory value of conceal- 
ment games that are children's first games. 18 Everyone can see them and yet 
no one before him had grasped in their iterative character the liberating rep- 
etition of all separation and weaning as such that the child assumes [assume] 
in these games. 

Thanks to Freud we can think of them as expressing the first vibration of 
the stationary wave of renunciations that scand the history of psychical 

At the beginning of this development we see the primordial ego, as essen- 
tially alienated, linked to the first sacrifice as essentially suicidal. 

In other words, we see here the fundamental structure of madness. 

Thus, the earliest dissonance between the ego and being would seem to 
be the fundamental note that resounds in a whole harmonic scale across the 

Presentation on Psychical Causality i5s 

phases of psychical history, the function of which is to resolve it by devel- 
oping it. 

Any resolution of this dissonance through an illusory coincidence of real- 
ity with the ideal would resonate all the way to the depths of the imaginary 
knot of narcissistic, suicidal aggression. 

Yet this mirage of appearances, in which the organic conditions of intoxi- 
cation, for instance, can play their role, requires the ungraspable consent of 
freedom, as can be seen in the fact that madness is found only in man and only 
after he reaches "the age of reason" — Pascal's intuition that "a child is not a 
man" is thus borne out here. 

Indeed, the child's first identificatory choices, which are "innocent" 
choices, determine nothing, apart from the affective [patketiques] "fixations" 
of neurosis, but the madness by which man thinks he is a man. 

This paradoxical formulation nevertheless takes on its full value when we 
consider that man is far more than his body, even though he can know 
[savoir] nothing more about his being. 

Here we see the fundamental illusion to which man is a slave, much more 
so than to all the "passions of the body" in the Cartesian sense: the passion of 
being a man. It is, I would say, the passion of the soul par excellence^ narcis- 
sism, that imposes its structure on all his desires, even the loftiest ones. 

In the encounter between body and mind, the soul appears as what it tra- 
ditionally is, that is, as the limit of the monad. 

When man, seeking to empty himself of all thoughts, advances in the 
shadowless gleam of imaginary space, abstaining from even awaiting what 
will emerge from it, a dull mirror shows him a surface in which nothing is 

I think, therefore, that I can designate the imago as the true object of psy- 
chology, to the exact same extent that Galileo's notion of the inert mass point 
served as the foundation of physics. 

However, we cannot yet fully grasp the notion, and my entire expose has 
had no other goal than to guide you toward its obscure self-evidence. 

It seems to me to be correlated with a kind of unextended space — that is, 
indivisible space, our intuition of which should be clarified by progress in the 
notion of gestalts — and with a kind of time that is caught between expecta- 
tion and release, a time of phases and repetition. 

A form of causality grounds this notion, which is psychical causality itself: 
identification. The latter is an irreducible phenomenon, and the imago is the 
form, which is definable in the imaginary spatiotemporal complex, whose func- 
tion is to bring about the identification that resolves a psychical phase — in other 

i54 Ecrits 

words, a metamorphosis in the individual's relationships with his semblables. 

Those who do not wish to understand me might object that I am begging 
the question and that I am gratuitously positing that the phenomenon is irre- 
ducible merely in order to foster a thoroughly metaphysical conception of man. 

I will thus address the deaf by offering them facts which will, I think, pique 

189 their sense of the visible, since these facts should not appear to be contami- 
nated, in their eyes at least, by either the mind or being: for I will seek them 
out in the animal kingdom. 

It is clear that psychical phenomena must manifest themselves in that king- 
dom if they have an independent existence, and that what I call the imago must 
be found there — at least in those animals whose Umwelt involves, if not soci- 
ety, at least an aggregation of their fellow creatures, that is, those animals who 
present, among their specific characteristics, the trait known as "gregarious- 
ness." In any case, ten years ago, when I referred to the imago as a "psychical 
object" and stated that the appearance of Freud's Oedipus complex marked a 
conceptual watershed, insofar as it contained the promise of a true psychol- 
ogy, I simultaneously indicated in several of my writings that, with the imago, 
psychology had given us a concept which could be at least as fruitful in biol- 
ogy as many other concepts that are far more uncertain but that have never- 
theless gained currency there. 

This indication was borne out starting in 1939, and as proof I will simply 
present two "facts" among others that have by now become quite numerous. 

The first is found in a paper by L. Harrison Matthews published in the Pro- 
ceedings of the Royal Society in 1939. 19 

It had long been known that a female pigeon does not ovulate when iso- 
lated from other members of its species. 

Matthews' experiments demonstrated that ovulation is triggered by a 
female pigeon's sight of the specific form of a member of its own species, to 
the exclusion of any other sensory form of perception, and without that mem- 
ber having to be male. 

Placed in the same room with individuals of both sexes, but in cages that are 
fabricated in such a way that the pigeons cannot see each other, although they 
can easily perceive each other's calls and smells, the females do not ovulate. 
Conversely, if we allow two pigeons to view each other — even if it is through 
a glass barrier that suffices to thwart the onset of the mating game, and even 
when both pigeons are female — ovulation is triggered within a period of time 
that varies from twelve days (when the separated pigeons include a male and 

190 a female) to two months (when the separated pigeons are both female). 

But what is more remarkable still is that the mere sight by the animal of its 
own image in a mirror suffices to trigger ovulation within two and a half months. 

Presentation on Psychical Causality i55 

Another researcher has noted that the secretion of milk in the male pigeon's 
crops, which normally occurs when the eggs hatch, does not occur when he 
cannot see the female brooding the eggs. 

A second group of facts is found in a paper by Chauvin, which was pub- 
lished in 1941 in the A nnales de la Societe entomologique de France. 1 ® 

Chauvin's work concerns an insect species with two very different vari- 
eties of individuals: a so-called "solitary" type and a so-called "gregarious" 
one. Chauvin studied the migratory locust, that is, one of the species com- 
monly referred to as grasshoppers, in which the phenomenon of swarming is 
linked to the appearance of the gregarious type. In this locust, also called Schis- 
tocerca, the two varieties show profound differences (as in Locusta and other 
similar species) in both their instincts — sexual cycle, voracity, and motor agi- 
tation — and their morphology, as can be seen from biometric measures and 
from the pigmentation that produces their differing characteristic outward 

Limiting ourselves to this last feature, I will indicate that in Schistocerca, 
the solitary type is solid green throughout its development, which includes 
five larval stages, whereas the gregarious type changes colors depending on 
its stage and has certain black striations on different parts of its body, one of 
the most permanent striations being on its hind femur. But I am not exagger- 
ating when I say that, in addition to these highly visible features, the insects 
differ biologically in every respect. 

We find that the appearance of the gregarious type is triggered, in this 
insect, by perception of the characteristic form of the species during the first 
larval periods. Two solitary individuals placed together will thus evolve 
toward the gregarious type. Through a series of experiments — raising them 
in darkness and isolated sectioning of the palpus, the antennae, and so on — it 
was possible to locate this perception very precisely in the senses of sight and 
touch, to the exclusion of smell, hearing, and shared movement. It is not nee- 191 

essary for the two individuals that are put together to be in the same larval 
stage, and they react in the same way to the presence of an adult. The presence 
of an adult from a similar species, such as Locusta^ also determines gregari- 
ousness, but not the presence of an adult Gryllus, which is from a more distant 

After an in-depth discussion, Chauvin is led to bring in the notion of a spe- 
cific form and a specific movement, characterized by a certain "style," a for- 
mulation that is all the less questionable in his case in that he does not seem to 
even dream of tying it to the notion of gestalts. I will let him conclude in his own 
words, which will show how little he is inclined to wax metaphysical: "There 
clearly must be some sort of recognition here, however rudimentary one 

i56 Ecrits 

assumes it to be. Yet how can we speak of recognition without presupposing a 
psychophysiological mechanism?" 21 Such is the discretion of the physiologist. 

But that is not the whole story: gregarious individuals are born from the 
coupling of two solitary individuals in a proportion that depends on the 
amount of time they are allowed to spend together. Furthermore, these exci- 
tations are such that the proportion of gregarious births rises as the number 
of couplings after certain intervals rises. 

Inversely, suppression of the image 's morphogenic action leads to progres- 
sive reduction of the number of gregarious individuals among the offspring. 

Although the sexual characteristics of gregarious adults depend on condi- 
tions that still better manifest the originality of the role of the specific imago 
in the phenomenon that I have just described, I would do better not to elabo- 
rate any further on this topic in a presentation on psychical causality in cases 
of madness. 

I would simply like to highlight here the equally significant fact that, con- 
trary to what Ey allows himself to be led to propose somewhere, there is no 
parallelism between the anatomical differentiation of the nervous system and 
the wealth of psychical manifestations, even of intelligence. This is demon- 
192 strated by a huge amount of data regarding the behavior of lower animals; 

consider the crab, for example, whose skill in using mechanical impact to deal 
with a mussel I have repeatedly praised in my lectures. 

In concluding, I hope that this brief discourse on the imago will strike you, 
not as an ironic challenge, but as a genuine threat to man. For, while our abil- 
ity to realize that the imago's unquantifiable distance and freedom's minute 
blade are decisive in madness does not yet allow us to cure it, the time is per- 
haps not far off when such knowledge will allow us to induce it. While noth- 
ing can guarantee that we will not get lost in a free movement toward truth, a 
little nudge will suffice to ensure that we change truth into madness. Then we 
will have moved from the domain of metaphysical causality, which one can 
deride, to that of scientific technique, which is no laughing matter. 

Here and there we have seen the beginnings of such an enterprise. The art 
of the image will soon be able to play off the values of the imago, and some 
day we will see serial orders of "ideals" that withstand criticism: that is when 
the label "true guarantee" will take on its full meaning. 

Neither the intention nor the enterprise will be new, but their systematic 
form will be. 

In the meantime, I propose to equate the various delusional structures with 
the therapeutic methods applied to the psychoses, as a function of the princi- 
ples I have developed here: 

Presentation on Psychical Causality i5y 

• running from the ridiculous attachment to the object demanded, to the cruel 
tension of hypochondriacal fixation, and on to the suicidal backdrop of the 
delusion of negation; and 

• running from the sedative value of medical explanations, to the disruptive 
act of inducing epilepsy, and on to analysis' narcissistic catharsis. 

It sufficed to reflect upon a few "optical illusions" to lay the groundwork 
for a Gestalt theory that produces results that might seem to be minor mira- 
cles. For instance, predicting the following phenomenon: when an arrange- 
ment composed of blue-colored sectors is made to spin in front of a screen 193 
that is half black and half yellow, the colors remain isolated or combine and 
you either see the two colors of the screen through a blue swirling or else you 
see a blue-black and a grey blend together, according to whether you see the 
arrangement or not, thus depending solely on a thought adjustment. 

Judge for yourself, then, what our combinatory faculties could wrest from 
a theory that refers to the very relationship between being and the world, if 
this theory became somewhat precise. It should be clear to you that the visual 
perception of a man raised in a cultural context completely different from our 
own is a perception that is completely different from our own. 

The aspects of the imago — which are more invisible to our eyes (made, as 
they are, for the signs of the money changer) than what the desert hunter knows 
how to see the imperceptible trace of, namely, the gazelle's footprint on the 
rock — will someday be revealed to us. 

You have heard me lovingly refer to Descartes and Hegel in order to situ- 
ate the place of the imago in our research. It is rather fashionable these days 
to "go beyond" the classical philosophers. I could just as easily have started 
with the admirable dialogue in the Parmenides. For neither Socrates nor 
Descartes, nor Marx, nor Freud, can be "gone beyond," insofar as they car- 
ried out their research with the passion to unveil that has an object: truth. 

As one such prince of words wrote — I mean Max Jacob, poet, saint, and 
novelist, through whose fingers the threads of the ego's* mask seem to slip of 
their own accord — in Cornet a des ("The Dice Cup"), if I am not mistaken: 
the truth is always new. 


1. One can read the most recent exposition conference just before this one). Ey added an 

available of Henri Ey's viewpoints in the introduction and a long response of his own to 

brochure that contains the presentation made their presentation, which included a critique of 

by J. de Ajuriaguerra and H. Hecaen at the con- his doctrine. See Rapports de la Neurologic et 

ference held in Bonneval in 1943 (that is, the de la Psychiatrie, H. Ey, J. de Ajuriaguerra, and 



H. Hecaen (Paris: Hermann, 1947), issue num- 
ber 1018 of the well-known collection "Actu- 
alites scientifiques et industrielles" ("Current 
Scientific and Industrial Developments"). 
Some of the quotations that follow are bor- 
rowed from them; others are found only in 
typewritten texts thanks to which a highly 
productive discussion took place that paved the 
way for the Bonneval conference in 1946. 

2. Henri Ey, Rapports de la Neurologie, 14. 

3. Henri Ey, Rapports de la Neurologie, 122. 
(Cf. Ey 's article published in Evolution Psychi- 
atrique XII, 1(1947): 71-104. 

4. Henri Ey, Hallucinations et Delire (Paris: 
Alcan, 1934). 

5. P. Guiraud, "Les formes verbales de 
^interpretation delirante," Annales medico- 
psychologiques LXXIX, 5 (1921): 395-412. 

6. In the first issue of the journal entitled 14, 
rue du Dragon (Paris: Cahiers d'Art). 

7. Paul Eluard, Poesie involontaire etpoesie 
intentionnelle (Villeneuve-les- Avignon: Seghers, 

8. See La Philosophie de V esprit, trans. Vera 
(Paris: Germer Bailliere, 1867), and the excel- 
lent French translation in two volumes by Jean 
Hyppolite, La Phenomenologie de Vesprit (Paris: 
Aubier, 1939), which I will return to further on. 

9. French readers can no longer ignore this 
work now that Jean Hyppolite has made it 
accessible to them, in a way that will satisfy 
even the most exacting of readers, in his thesis 
which has just been published (Paris: Aubier, 
1946), and once the Nouvelle Revue Francaise 
publishes the notes from the course that 
Alexandre Kojeve devoted to Hegel's text for 
five years at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes. 

10. In Evolution psychiatrique, 2 (March 

1931): 25-34. See also P. Guiraud and B. 
Cailleux, "Le meurtre immotive, reaction 
liberatrice de la maladie chez les hebephrenes," 
Annales Medico-psychiatriques 2 (November 
1928): 352-60. 

11. See Antf 1966,157. 

1 2. See Freud 's Das Ich unddas Es [ The Ego 
and the Id, SE XIX, especially chapter 2]. 

13. Phenomenologie de la perception (Paris: 
Gallimard, 1945). [The Phenomenology of 
Perception, trans. Colin Smith (New York: 
Humanities Press, 1962).] 

14. Charlotte Biihler, So^iologische undpsy- 
chologische Studien iiber das erste Lebensjahr 
(Jena: Fischer, 1927). See also Elsa Kohler, Die 
Personlichkeit des dreijahrigen Kindes (Leipzig: 

1 5. Bertrand Russell, The Analysis of Mind 
(New York: Macmillan, 1921). 

16. De la psychose paranoiaque dans ses rap- 
ports avec la personnalite (Paris: Le Francois, 

1932), Part II, Chap. II, 202-15 and also Chap. 
IV, Section III, b, 300-306. 

17. Encyclopedie Francaise, founded by A. de 
Monzie, vol. VIII, edited by Henri Wallon; see 
Part 2, Section A, "La famille," especially pages 
840-6 to 8*40-11. 

18. In Jense its des Lustprinpps [Beyond the 
Pleasure Principle, £EXVIII, 14-17]. 

19. See [L. Harrison Matthews, "Visual 
Stimulation and Ovulation in Pigeons" in] Pro- 
ceedings of the Royal Society, Series B (Biolog- 
ical Sciences), 126 (February 3, 1939): 557-60. 

20. R. Chauvin, Annales de la Societe ento- 
mologique de France (1941, third quarter): 133 — 

21. R. Chauvin, Annales de la Societe 
entomologique de France, 251 (my italics). 

Logical Time and the Assertion i 97 

of Anticipated Certainty 

A New Sophism 

In March 1945, Christian Zervos asked me to contribute, along with a certain 
number of writers, to the recommencement issue of his journal, Les Cahiers 
d'Art, conceived with the intent of filling the space between the figures on its 
cover, 1940-1944, dates significant to many people, with the illustrious 
names in its table of contents. 

I submitted this article, knowing full well that this would immediately 
make it unavailable to most readers. 

May it resound with the right note here where I am placing it, between the 
before and the after, even if it demonstrates that the after was kept waiting 
[faisait antichambre\ so that the before could assume its own place [put prendre 

A Logical Problem 

A prison warden summons three choice prisoners and announces to them the 

For reasons I need not make known to you now, gentlemen, I must free 
one of you. In order to decide which, I will entrust the outcome to a test 
that you will, I hope, agree to undergo. 

There are three of you present. I have here five disks differing only 
in color: three white and two black. Without letting you know which I 
will have chosen, I will fasten one of them to each of you between the 
shoulders, outside, that is, your direct visual field — indirect ways of get- 
ting a look at the disk also being excluded by the absence here of any 
means by which to see your own reflection. 

You will then be left at your leisure to consider your companions and 
their respective disks, without being allowed, of course, to communi- 
cate among yourselves the results of your inspection. Your own inter- 198 
est would, in any case, proscribe such communication, for the first to be 
able to deduce his own color will be the one to benefit from the dis- 
charging measure at my disposal. 

But his conclusion must be founded upon logical and not simply prob- 
abilistic grounds. Keeping this in mind, it is agreed that as soon as one 

1 62 Ecrits 

of you is ready to formulate such a conclusion, he will pass through this 
door so that he may be judged individually on the basis of his response. 

This having been agreed to, each of our three subjects is adorned with a 
white disk, no use being made of the black ones, of which there were, let us 
recall, but two. 

How can the subjects solve the problem? 

The Perfect Solution 

After having contemplated one another for a certain time, the three subjects 
take a few steps together, passing side by side through the doorway. Each of 
them then separately furnishes a similar response which can be expressed as 

I am a white, and here is how I know it. Since my companions were whites, 
I thought that, had I been a black, each of them would have been able to 
infer the following: "If I too were a black, the other would have neces- 
sarily realized straight away that he was a white and would have left 
immediately; therefore I am not a black." And both would have left 
together, convinced they were whites. As they did nothing of the kind, 
I must be a white like them. At that, I made for the door to make my con- 
clusion known. 

All three thus exited simultaneously, armed with the same reasons for con- 

Sophistic Value of this Solution 

Can this solution, which presents itself as the most perfect of which the prob- 
lem allows, be obtained experimentally? I leave to the initiative of each the 
task of deciding. 
199 Not that I would go so far as to recommend putting it to the test in real 

life — even though our era's antinomic progress has, it seems, for some time 
now, been putting such conditions within the reach of an ever greater num- 
ber. Indeed, I am afraid that although only winners are foreseen here, prac- 
tice may well diverge considerably from theory. Moreover, I am not one of 
those recent philosophers for whom confinement within four walls merely 
helps us attain the ultimate in human freedom. 

Logical Time and the Assertion of Anticipated Certainty 163 

But when carried out under the innocent conditions of fiction, the experi- 
ment will not disappoint those who have not lost all taste for surprise — I guar- 
antee it. It will perhaps turn out to be of some scientific value to the 
psychologist, at least if we can trust what seemed to me to result from having 
tried it with various groups of appropriately chosen, qualified intellectuals: a 
very peculiar misrecognition on the part of these subjects of the reality of other 

My only interest is in the logical value of the solution presented. I consider 
it, in effect, to be a remarkable sophism, in the classical sense of the term — 
that is, a significant example for the resolution of the forms of a logical func- 
tion at the historical moment at which the problem these forms raise presents 
itself to philosophical examination. The story's sinister images will certainly 
prove to be contingent. But to whatever degree my sophism may seem not 
irrelevant to our times, its bearing their sign in such images is in no way super- 
fluous — which is why I have preserved here the trappings with which it was 
brought to my attention one evening by an ingenious host. 

I will now place myself under the auspices of he who sometimes dons the 
philosopher's garb, who — ambiguous — is more often to be sought in the 
comedian's banter, but who is always encountered in the politician's secretive 
action: the good logician, odious to the world. 

Discussion of the Sophism 

Every sophism initially presents itself as a logical error, and a first objection 
to this sophism can be easily formulated. Let us call "A" the real subject who 
concludes for himself, and "B" and "C" those reflected subjects upon whose 200 

conduct A founds his deduction. One might object that since B's conviction 
is based on C's expectative, the strength of his conviction must logically dis- 
sipate when C stops hesitating; and reciprocally for C with respect to B; both 
must thus remain indecisive. Nothing therefore necessitates their departure in 
the case that A is a black. Consequently, A cannot deduce that he is a white. 

To this it must first be replied that B and C's whole cogitation is falsely 
imputed to them, for the only situation which could motivate it — the fact of 
seeing a black — is not, in effect, the true situation. What must be discerned 
here is whether, supposing this situation were the case, it would be wrong to 
impute this logical thought process to them. Now it would be nothing of the 
kind, for, according to my hypothesis, it is the fact that neither of them left 
first which allows each to believe he is a white, and their hesitating for but 
one instant would clearly suffice to reconvince each of them beyond the 

z 64 Ecrits 

shadow of a doubt that he is a white. For hesitation is logically excluded for 
whomever sees two blacks. But it is also excluded in reality in this first step 
of the deduction for, since no one finds himself in the presence of a black and 
a white, there is no way for anyone to leave on the basis of what can be deduced 

But the objection presents itself more forcibly at the second stage of A's 
deduction. For if he has legitimately concluded that he is a white — positing 
that, had he been a black, the others would not have been long in realizing 
they were whites and leaving — he must nevertheless abandon his conclusion 
as soon as he comes to it; for at the very moment at which he is stirred into 
action by his conclusion, he sees the others setting off with him. 

Before responding to this objection, let me carefully lay out anew the log- 
ical terms of the problem. "A" designates each of the subjects insofar as he 
himself is in the hot seat and resolves or fails to resolve to conclude about his 
own case. "B" and "C" are the two others insofar as they are objects of A's 
reasoning. But while A can correctly impute to the others a thought process 
which is in fact false (as I have just shown), he can, nevertheless, only take 
into account their real behavior. 

If A, seeing B and C set off with him, wonders again whether they have 
not in fact seen that he is black, it suffices for him to stop and newly pose 
the question in order to answer it. For he sees that they too stop: since each 
20 1 of them is really in the same situation as him, or more aptly stated, is A inso- 

far as [he is] real — that is, insofar as he resolves or fails to resolve to con- 
clude about himself — each encounters the same doubt at the same moment 
as him. Regardless of the reasoning A now imputes to B and C, he will legit- 
imately conclude again that he is a white. For he posits anew that, had he 
been a black, B and C would have had to continue; or at the very least, 
acknowledging their hesitation — which concurs with the preceding argu- 
ment (here supported by the facts) that makes them wonder whether they 
are not blacks themselves — he posits that they would have had to set off again 
before him (it is the fact that he is black that gives their very hesitation its def- 
inite import, allowing them to conclude that they are whites). It is because 
they, seeing that he is in fact white, do nothing of the kind, that he himself 
takes the initiative; which is to say that they all head for the door together 
to declare that they are whites. 

But one can still object that, having removed in this way the obstacle, we 
have not for all that refuted the logical objection — for the same objection turns 
up with the reiteration of the movement, reproducing in each of the subjects 
the very same doubt and arrest. 

Logical Time and the Assertion of Anticipated Certainty i65 

Assuredly, but logical progress must have been made in the interim. For this 
time A can draw but one unequivocal conclusion from the common cessation 
of movement: had he been a black, B and C absolutely should not have stopped. 
Their hesitating a second time in concluding that they are whites would be ruled 
out at this point: Indeed, a single hesitation suffices for them to demonstrate to 
each other that certainly neither of them is a black. Thus, if B and C have halted 
again, A can only be a white. Which is to say that this time the three subjects 
are confirmed in a certainty permitting of no further doubt or objection. 

Withstanding the test of critical discussion, the sophism thus maintains all 
the constraining rigor of a logical process, on condition that one integrates 
therein the value of the two suspensive scansions. This test exposes the process 
of verification in the very act in which each of the subjects manifests that it 
has led him to his conclusion. 

Value of the Suspended Motions in the Process 202 

Is it justifiable to integrate into the sophism the two suspended motions which 
have thus made their appearance? In order to decide, we must examine their 
role in the solution of the logical problem. 

In fact, they take on this role only after the conclusion of the logical 
process, since the act they suspend evinces this very conclusion. One thus can- 
not object on that basis that they bring into the solution an element external 
to the logical process itself. 

Their role, while crucial to the carrying-out [pratique] of the logical 
process, is not that of experience in the verification of an hypothesis, but rather 
that of something intrinsic to logical ambiguity. 

For at first sight the givens of the problem would seem to break down as 

(1) Three combinations of the subjects' characteristic attributes are logically 
possible: two blacks, one white; one black, two whites; or three whites. 
Once the first combination is ruled out by what all three subjects see, the 
question as to which of the other two is the case remains open. Its answer 
derives from: 

(2) the experiential data provided by the suspended motions, which amount 
to signals by which the subjects communicate to each other — in a mode 
determined by the conditions of the test — what they are forbidden to 
exchange in an intentional mode, namely, what each sees of the others' 

i66 Ecrits 

But this is not at all the case, as it would give the logical process a spatial- 
ized conception — the same spatialized conception that turns up every time the 
logical process appears to be erroneous, and that constitutes the only objec- 
tion to the solubility of the problem. 

It is precisely because my sophism will not tolerate a spatialized concep- 
tion that it presents itself as an aporia for the forms of classical logic, whose 
"eternal" prestige reflects an infirmity which is nonetheless recognized as their 
own 1 — namely, that these forms never give us anything which cannot already 
be seen all at once. 

203 In complete opposition to this, the coming into play as signifiers of the phe- 
nomena here contested makes the temporal, not spatial, structure of the log- 
ical process prevail. What the suspended motions disclose is not what the 
subjects see, but rather what they have found out positively about what they 
do not see-, the appearance of the black disks. What constitutes these suspended 
motions as signifying is not their direction, but rather their interruption [temps 
d'arret]. Their crucial value is not that of a binary choice between two inertly 2 
juxtaposed combinations — rendered incomplete by the visual exclusion of the 
third combination — but rather of a verificatory movement instituted by a log- 
ical process in which a subject transforms the three possible combinations into 
three times of possibility. 

This is also why, while a single signal should suffice for the sole choice 
imposed by the first erroneous interpretation, two scansions are necessary to 
verify the two lapses implied by the second, and only valid, interpretation. 

Far from being experiential data external to the logical process, the sus- 
pended motions are so necessary to it that only experience can make the logi- 
cal process lack here the synchronicity implied by the suspended motions as 
produced by a purely logical subject; only experience can make their function 
in the verification process founder. 

The suspended motions represent nothing, in effect, but levels of degrada- 

204 tion whose necessity brings out the increasing order of temporal instances that 
are registered within the logical process so as to be integrated into its conclusion. 

This can be seen in the logical determination of the interruptions they con- 
stitute, this determination — whether logician's objection or subject's doubt — 
revealing itself at each moment as the subjective unfolding of a temporal 
instance, or more aptly stated, as the slipping away [fuite] of the subject within 
a formal exigency. 

These temporal instances, which are constitutive of the process of the 
sophism, permit us to recognize a true logical movement in it. This process 
calls for an examination of the quality of its times. 

Logical Time and the Assertion of Anticipated Certainty i6y 

The Modulation of Time in the Sophism's Movement: The Instant of the 
Glance, the Time for Comprehending, and the Moment of Concluding 

One can isolate in the sophism three evidential moments whose logical values 
prove to be different and of increasing order. To lay out the chronological 
succession of the three moments would amount once again to spatializing them 
through a formalism which tends to reduce discourse to an alignment of signs. 
To show that the instance of time presents itself in a different mode in each of 
these moments would be to preserve their hierarchy, revealing therein a tonal 
discontinuity that is essential to their value. But to discern in the temporal mod- 
ulation the very function by which each of these moments, in its passage to the 
next, is resorbed therein, the last moment which absorbs them alone remain- 
ing, would be to reconstruct their real succession and truly understand their 
genesis in the logical movement. That is what I will attempt, starting from as 
rigorous a formulation as possible of these evidential moments. 

(I) Being opposite two blacks, one knows that one is a white. 

We have here a logical exclusion which gives the movement its basis. The fact 
that this logical exclusion is anterior to the movement, that is, that we can 
assume it to be clear to the subjects with the givens of the problem — givens 
which forbid a combination involving three blacks — is independent of the 
dramatic contingency isolating the preambular statement of these givens. 
Expressing it in the form two blacks : one white, we see the instantaneousness of 
its evidence — its fulguration time, so to speak, being equal to zero. 

But its formulation at the outset is already modulated by the subjectiviza- 205 

tion, albeit impersonal, which takes form here in the "one knows that . . . ," and 
by die conjunction of propositions which constitutes less a formal hypothesis 
than a still indeterminate matrix of such a hypothesis; we can put it in the fol- 
lowing consequential form designated by linguists with the terms "protasis" 
and "apodosis": "Being . . . , only then does one know that one is . . ." 

An instance of time widens the interval so that the pregiven [le donne] of 
the protasis, "opposite two blacks," changes into the given [la donnee] of the 
apodosis, "one is a white," the instant of the glance being necessary for this to 
occur. Into the logical equivalence between the two terms, "two blacks : one 
white," temporal modulation introduces a form which, in the second 
moment, crystallizes into an authentic hypothesis; for it aims now at the real 
unknown of the problem, namely, the attribute of which the subject himself 
is unaware. In this step, the subject encounters the next logical combination, 

i68 Ecrits 

and — being the only one to whom the attribute "black" can be assigned — is 
able, in the first phase of the logical movement, to formulate thus the fol- 
lowing evidence: 

(II) Were I a black, the two whites that I see would waste no time realizing 
that they are whites. 

We have here an intuition by which the subject objectifies something more than 
the factual givens offered him by the sight of the two whites. A certain time is 
defined (in the two senses of taking on meaning and finding its limit) by its 
end, an end that is at once goal and term. For the two whites in the situation 
of seeing a white and a black, this time is the time for comprehending, each of 
the whites finding the key to his own problem in the inertia of his semblable. 
The evidence of this moment presupposes the duration of a time of meditation 
that each of the two whites must ascertain in the other, and that the subject 
manifests in the terms he attributes to their lips, as though they were written 
on a banderole: "Had I been a black, he would have left without waiting an 
instant. If he stays to meditate, it is because I am a white." 

But how can we measure the limit of this time whose meaning has been thus 
objectified? The time for comprehending can be reduced to the instant of the 
glance, but this glance can include in its instant all the time needed for com- 
prehending. The objectivity of this time thus vacillates with its limit. Its mean- 
206 ing alone subsists, along with the form it engenders of subjects who are 

undefined except by their reciprocity, and whose action is suspended by mutual 
causality in a time which gives way due to [sous] the very return of the intu- 
ition that it has objectified. It is through this temporal modulation that, with 
the second phase of the logical movement, a path is blazed which leads to the 
following evidence: 

(III) I hasten to declare myself a white, so that these whites, whom I consider 
in this way, do not precede me in recognizing themselves for what they are. 

We have here the assertion about oneself through which the subject concludes 
the logical movement in the making of a judgment. The very return of the move- 
ment of comprehending, before [sous] which the temporal instance that objec- 
tively sustains it has vacillated, continues on in the subject in reflection. This 
instance reemerges for him therein in the subjective mode of a time of lagging 
behind the others in that very movement, logically presenting itself as the 
urgency of the moment of concluding. More strictly speaking, its evidence is 
revealed in a subjective penumbra as the growing illumination of a fringe at 

Logical Time and the Assertion of Anticipated Certainty 169 

the edge of the eclipse that the objectivity of the time for comprehending under- 
goes due to [sous] reflection. 

It seems to the subject that the time required for the two whites to under- 
stand the situation in which they are faced with a white and a black does not 
logically differ from the time it took him to understand it himself, since this 
situation is merely his own hypothesis. But if his hypothesis is correct — if, 
that is, the two whites actually see a black — they do not have to make an 
assumption about it, and will thus precede him by the beat [temps de battement] 
he misses in having to formulate this very hypothesis. It is thus the moment for 
concluding that he is a white; should he allow himself to be beaten to this con- 
clusion by his semblables, he will no longer be able to determine whether he is a 
black or not. Having surpassed the time for comprehending the moment of con- 
cluding , it is the moment of concluding the time for comprehending. Otherwise 
this time would lose its meaning. It is thus not because of some dramatic con- 
tingency, the seriousness of the stakes, or the competitiveness of the game, 
that time presses; it is owing to [sous] the urgency of the logical movement that 
the subject precipitates both his judgment and his departure ("precipitates" in 
the etymological sense of the verb: headlong), establishing the modulation in 
which temporal tension is reversed in a move to action [tendance a Facte] man- 
ifesting to the others that the subject has concluded. But let us stop at this point 207 
at which the subject arrives in his assertion at a truth that will be submitted to 
the test of doubt, but that he will be incapable of verifying unless he first attains 
it as a certainty. Temporal tension culminates here since, as we already know, 
it is the sequential steps of its release that will scand the test of its logical neces- 
sity. What is the logical value of this conclusive assertion? That is what I shall 
now try to bring out in the logical movement in which this conclusive asser- 
tion is verified. 

Temporal Tension in the Subjective Assertion and Its Value 
Manifested in the Demonstration of the Sophism 

The logical value of the third evidential moment, that is formulated in the 
assertion by which the subject concludes his logical movement, seems to me 
to deserve deeper exploration. It reveals, in effect, a form proper to an assertive 
logic, and we must indicate to which original relations this assertive logic can 
be applied. 

Building on the propositional relations of the first two moments, apodosis 
and hypothesis, the conjunction manifested here builds up to a motivation of 
the conclusion "so that there will not be" (a lagging behind that engenders error), 
in which the ontological form of anxiety, curiously reflected in the grammat- 

ijo Ecrits 

ically equivalent expression "for fear that" (the lagging behind might engen- 
der error), seems to emerge. 

This form is undoubtedly related to the logical originality of the subject of 
the assertion; that is why I characterize it as subjective assertion, the logical sub- 
ject here being but the personal form of the knowing subject who can only be 
expressed by "/." Otherwise stated, the judgment which concludes the 
sophism can only be borne by a subject who has formulated the assertion about 
himself, and cannot be imputed to him unreservedly by anyone else — unlike 
the relations of the impersonal and undefined reciprocal subjects of the first two 
moments that are essentially transitive, since the personal subject of the log- 
ical movement assumes {assume] them at each of these moments. 

The reference to these two subjects highlights the logical value of the sub- 
ject of the assertion. The former, expressed in the "one" of the "one knows 
208 that . . . y " provides only the general form of the noetic subject: he can as eas- 

ily be god, table, or washbasin. The latter, expressed in "the two whites" who 
must recognize "one another" introduces the form of the other as such — that 
is, as pure reciprocity — since the one can only recognize himself in the other 
and only discover his own attribute in the equivalence of their characteristic 
time. The "I" subject of the conclusive assertion, is isolated from the other — 
that is, from the relation of reciprocity — by a logical beat [battement de temps]. 
This movement of the logical genesis of the 7" through a decanting of its 
own logical time largely parallels its psychological birth. Just as, let us recall, 
the psychological "/" emerges from an indeterminate specular transitivism, 
assisted by an awakened jealous tendency, the "I" in question here defines 
itself through a subjectification of competition with the other, in the function 
of logical time. As such, it seems to me to provide the essential logical form 
(rather than the so-called existential form) of the psychological "7." 3 

The essentially subjective ("assertive" in my terminology) value of the 
sophism's conclusion is attested to by how uncertain an observer (for exam- 
ple, the prison warden overseeing the game) would be, faced with the three 
subjects' simultaneous departure, in trying to decide whether any of them has 
correctly deduced the attribute he bears. For the subject has seized the moment 
of concluding that he is a white due to [sous] the subjective evidence of a lag- 
time which presses him on towards the exit, but even if he has not seized it, 
the objective evidence constituted by the others' departure leads him to act no 
differently: he leaves in step with them, convinced, however, that he is a black. 
All the observer can foresee is that if one of the three declares upon questioning 
that he is a black, having hastened to follow the other two, he will be the only 
one to do so in these terms. 

The assertive judgment finally manifests itself here in an act. Modern 

Logical Time and the Assertion of Anticipated Certainty iji 

thought has shown that every judgment is essentially an act, and the dramatic 
contingencies here merely isolate this act in the subjects' departing movement. 209 

One could imagine other means of expression for this act of concluding. What 
makes this act so remarkable in the subjective assertion demonstrated by the 
sophism is that it anticipates its own certainty owing to the temporal tension 
with which it is subjectively charged; and that, based on this very anticipation, 
its certainty is verified in a logical precipitation that is determined by the dis- 
charge of this tension — so that in the end the conclusion is no longer grounded 
on anything but completely objectified temporal instances, and the assertion 
is desubjectified to the utmost. As is demonstrated by what follows. 

First of all, we witness the reappearance of the objective time of the initial 
intuition of the movement which, as though sucked up between the instant of 
its beginning and the haste of its end, had seemed to burst like a bubble. Owing 
to the force of doubt, which exfoliates the subjective certainty of the moment 
of concluding, objective time condenses here like a nucleus in the interval of 
the first suspended motion, and manifests to the subject its limit in the time for 
comprehending that, for the two others, the instant of the glance has passed and 
that the moment of concluding has returned. 

While doubt has, since Descartes' time, been integrated into the value of 
judgment, it should certainly be noted that — for the form of assertion studied 
here — the latter's value depends less upon the doubt which suspends the asser- 
tion than on the anticipated certainty which first introduced it. 

But in order to understand the function of this doubt for the subject of the 
assertion, let us consider the objective value of the first suspension for the 
observer whose attention we have already drawn to the subjects' overall 
motion. Although it may have been impossible up until this point to judge 
what any of them had concluded, we find that each of them manifests uncer- 
tainty about his conclusion, but will have it confirmed without fail if it was 
correct, rectified — perhaps — if it was erroneous. 

Indeed, if any one of them is subjectively able to make the first move, but 
then stops, it is because he begins to doubt whether he has really grasped the 
moment of concluding that he is a white — but he will immediately grasp it anew 
since he has already experienced it subjectively. If, on the contrary, he let the 
others precede him and, in so doing, convince him that he is a black, he can- 
not doubt whether he has grasped the moment of concluding precisely 
because he has not subjectively appropriated it (and in effect he can even find 
in the others' new initiative logical confirmation of his belief that he differs 210 

from them). If he stops, it is because he subordinates his own conclusion so 
thoroughly to that which manifests the others' conclusion that he immediately 
suspends his own when they seem to suspend theirs; thus he doubts whether 

iyi Ecrits 

he is a black until they again show him the way, or he himself discovers it, con- 
cluding this time that he is a black or that he is a white — perhaps incorrectly, 
perhaps correctly — the point remaining impenetrable to everyone other than 

But the logical descent continues on towards the second temporal suspen- 
sion. Each of the subjects, having reappropriated the subjective certainty of 
the moment of concluding, can once again call it into question. It is now sus- 
tained, however, by the already accomplished objectification of the time for 
comprehending, and its being called into question lasts but the instant of the 
glance; for the mere fact that this hesitation is not the others' first but rather 
their second, suffices to put an end to his own hesitation as soon as he per- 
ceives theirs, immediately indicating to him as it does that he is certainly not 
a black. 

The subjective time of the moment of concluding is at last objectified here. 
This is proven by the fact that, even if any one of the subjects had not yet 
grasped it, it would nevertheless force itself upon him now; for this subject 
who would have concluded the first scansion by following the two others, con- 
vinced thereby that he was a black, would now — because of the present sec- 
ond scansion — be constrained to reverse his judgment. 

With the termination of the logical assembling of the two suspended 
motions in the act in which they reach completion, the sophism's assertion of 
certainty is desubjectified to the utmost. As is shown by the fact that according 
to our observer, assuming he finds the suspended motions to be synchronous 
for the three subjects, all three of them will indubitably declare themselves 
white upon questioning. 

Lastly, one can point out that at this same moment, if each subject can, when 
questioned, express, in the subjective assertion which has given him a certainty 
as the sophism's conclusion, the certainty he has finally verified — stating it in 
these terms:. 

I hastened to conclude that I was a white, because otherwise they would 
have preceded me in reciprocally recognizing themselves to be whites 
(and had I given them the time to do so, they would have led me astray, 
211 which would have been my undoing) 

— he can also express this certainty, in its verification which has been desub- 
jectified to the utmost in the logical movement, in the following terms: 

One must know that one is a white when the others have hesitated twice 
in leaving. 

Logical Time and the Assertion of Anticipated Certainty ijs 

In its first form, this conclusion can be advanced as veritable by a subject once 
he has constituted the sophism's logical movement, but can as such only be 
assumed [assume] personally by him; whereas in its second form, it requires 
the logical descent verifying the sophism to be consummated by all the sub- 
jects, although it remains applicable by any one of them to each of the others. 
It is not even ruled out that one, but only one, of the subjects might reach this 
second form without having constituted the sophism's logical movement, hav- 
ing simply followed its verification as manifested by the other two. 

The Truth of the Sophism as Temporali^ed Reference of Oneself 

to Another: Anticipating Subjective Assertion as the Fundamental Form 

of a Collective Logic 

The truth of the sophism thus only comes to be verified through its presump- 
tion^ so to speak, in the assertion it constitutes. Its truth thus turns out to depend 
upon a tendency that aims at the truth — a notion that would be a logical par- 
adox were it not reducible to the temporal tension that determines the moment 
of concluding. 

Truth manifests itself in this form as preceding error and advancing solely 
in the act that engenders its certainty; error, conversely, manifests itself as being 
confirmed by its inertia and correcting itself only with difficulty by following 
truth's conquering initiative. 

But to what sort of relation does such a logical form correspond? To a form 
of objectification engendered by the logical form in its movement — namely, 
the reference of an "/"to the common measure of the reciprocal subject, or 
otherwise stated, of others as such, that is, insofar as they are others for one 
another. This common measure is provided by a certain time for comprehend- 
ing^ which proves to be an essential function of the logical relationship of rec- 
iprocity. This reference of the "I" to others as such must, in each critical 
moment, be temporalized in order to dialectically reduce the moment of con- 212 

eluding the time for comprehending to last but the instant of the glance. 

Only the slightest disparity need appear in the logical term "others" for it 
to become clear how much the truth for all depends upon the rigor of each; 
that truth — if reached by only some — can engender, if not confirm, error in 
the others; and, moreover, that if in this race to the truth one is but alone, 
although not all may get to the truth, still no one can get there but by means 
of the others. 

These forms assuredly find easy application in bridge table and diplomatic 
strategy, not to mention in the handling of the "complex" in psychoanalytic 




Here, however, I would like to indicate their contribution to the logical 
notion of collectivity. 

Tresfaciunt collegium, as the adage goes, and the collectivity is already inte- 
grally represented in the form of the sophism, since the collectivity is defined 
as a group formed by the reciprocal relations of a definite number of individ- 
uals — unlike the generality, which is defined as a class abstractly including an 
indefinite number of individuals. 

But it suffices to extend the sophism's proof by recurrence to see that it can 
be logically applied to an unlimited number of subjects, 4 it being stipulated 
that the "negative" attribute can only appear in a number equal to the num- 
ber of subjects minus one. 5 But temporal objectification is more difficult to 
conceptualize as the collectivity grows, seeming to pose an obstacle to a col- 
lective logic with which one could complete classical logic. 

I will nevertheless show what such a logic would have to furnish, faced with 
the inadequacy one senses in an assertion such as "I am a man," couched in 
whatever form of classical logic and derived as the conclusion from whatever 
premises one likes (for example, "man is a rational animal," etc.). 

This assertion assuredly appears closer to its true value when presented 
as the conclusion of the form here demonstrated of anticipating subjective 

(1) A man knows what is not a man; 

(2) Men recognize themselves among themselves as men; 

(3) I declare myself to be a man for fear of being convinced by men that I am 
not a man. 

This movement provides the logical form of all "human" assimilation, pre- 
cisely insofar as it posits itself as assimilative of a barbarism, but it nonethe- 
less reserves the essential determination of the "I" . . . 6 


1 . This infirmity applies no less to the minds 
formed by this tradition, as is evinced by the 
following note I received from an intellect — 
who is nevertheless adventurous in other 
fields — after a soiree at which the discussion 
of my fruitful sophism had provoked a verita- 
ble confusional panic amongst the select intel- 
lects of an intimate circle. Despite its opening 
words, the note bears the traces of a laborious 
restatement of the problem. 

My dear Lacan, a hasty note to direct 
your attention to a new difficulty: the 
reasoning admitted yesterday is not truly 
conclusive, for none of the three possible 
states — 000, 00 1 , or •• — is reducible to 
any of the others (appearances notwith- 
standing); only the last is decisive. 

Consequence: when A assumes he is 
black, neither B nor C can leave, for they 
cannot deduce from their behavior 

Logical Time and the Assertion of Anticipated Certainty iy5 

whether they are black or white. For if 
one of them is black, the other leaves; and 
if, instead, the first is white, the other 
leaves anyway, because the first does not 
do so (and vice versa). If A assumes he 
is white, B and C cannot leave in this case 
either. The upshot being that, here too, 
A cannot deduce the color of his disk 
from the others' behavior. 

My contradictor, in seeing the case too 
clearly, thus remained blind to the fact that it is 
not the others' departure, but rather their wait- 
ing, which determines the subject's judgment. 
And in order to hastily refute me, he allowed 
himself to overlook what I am trying to demon- 
strate here: the function of haste in logic. 

2. "Irreducibles," as my contradictor in the 
previous footnote put it. 

3. Thus the "/," third form of the subject of 
enunciation in logic, is here still the "first per- 
son," but also the only and last. For the gram- 
matical second person is related to another 
function of language. As for the grammatical 
third person, it is only alleged: it is a demon- 
strative, which is equally applicable to the field 
of the enunciated and to everything distin- 
guishable therein. 

4. Here is the example for four subjects, four 
white disks, and three black ones: 

A thinks that, if he were a black, any one of 
the others — B, C, or D — could surmise con- 
cerning the two others that, if he himself were 
black, they would waste no time realizing they 
are whites. Thus one of the others — B, C, or 
D — would quickly have to conclude that he 
himself is white, which does not happen. When 
A realizes that, if they — B, C, and D — see that 
he is a black, they have the advantage over him 
of not having to make a supposition about it, 
he hurries to conclude that he is a white. 

But don't they all leave at the same time as 
him? A, in doubt, stops; and the others do too. 
But what does it mean if they all stop too? 

Either they stop because they fall prey to the 
same doubt as A, and A can thus race off again 
without worry. Or it is that A is black, and that 
one of the others (B, C, or D) has been led to 
wonder whether the departure of the other two 
does not in fact signify that he is a black, and 
to surmise that their stopping does not neces- 
sarily imply he is white — since either can still 
wonder for an instant whether he is not a black. 
Still this allows him [B, C, or D] to posit that 
they [reading Us (they) for // (he)] should both 
start up again before him if he is a black, and to 
start up again himself from this waiting in vain, 
assured of being what he is, that is, white. Why 
do B, C, and D not do it? Well if they do not, 
then I will, says A. So they all start up again. 

Second stop. Assuming I am black, A says 
to himself, it must now dawn upon one of the 
others — B, C, or D — that, if he were a black, 
he could not impute to the other two this fur- 
ther hesitation; therefore he is white. B, C, and 
D should thus start up again before him [A]. 
Failing which, A starts up again, and all the oth- 
ers along with him. 

Third stop. But all of them should know by 
now that they are whites if I am truly black, A 
says to himself. If they stop, then . . . 

And the certainty is verified in three sus- 
pensive scansions. 

5. [Added in 1966:] Compare the condition 
of this minus one in the attribute with the psy- 
choanalytic function of the One-extra \VUn-en- 
plus\ in the subject of psychoanalysis {Ecrits 


6. [Added in 1966:] The reader who contin- 
ues on in this collection is advised to return to 
this reference to the collective, which consti- 
tutes the end of the present article, in order to 
situate what Freud produced in the field of 
collective psychology {Massenpsychologie und 
Ich-Analyse, 1920 [Group Psychology and the 
Analysis of the -Ego]): the collective is nothing 
but the subject of the individual. 

n5 Presentation on Transference 

Given at the 1951 Congress of 
"Romance Language— Speaking Psychoanalysts " 

My goal here again was to accustom people's ears to the term "subject." The 
person who provided me with this opportunity shall remain anonymous, 
which will spare me the task of mentioning all the passages in which I refer to 
him in what follows. 

Were the question of the part Freud played in the case of Dora to be con- 
sidered settled here, it would be the net profit of my efforts to reinitiate the 
study of transference when Daniel Lagache 's paper by that name came out, 
his originality being to account for it by means of the Zeigarnik effect. 1 It was 
an idea that was designed to please at a time when psychoanalysis seemed to 
be running out of alibis. 

When our colleague, who shall remain nameless, discretely retorted to 
Lagache that one could equally well find evidence of transference in this 
effect, I considered the time ripe to speak of psychoanalysis. 

I have had to temper my expectations, since I also suggested a good deal 
here that I articulated later on the subject of transference. (1966) 

By commenting that the Zeigarnik effect seems to depend on transference more 
than it determines it, my colleague, B., introduced what might be called 
aspects of resistance into this psychotechnical experiment. Their import is to 
highlight the primacy of the subject-to-subject relationship in all of an indi- 
vidual's reactions, inasmuch as they are human, and the dominance of this rela- 
21 6 tionship in any test of individual dispositions, whether this test be defined by 

the conditions of a task or a situation. 

What must be understood about psychoanalytic experience is that it pro- 
ceeds entirely in this subject-to-subject relationship, which means that it pre- 
serves a dimension that is irreducible to any psychology considered to be the 
objectification of certain of an individual's properties. 

Indeed, what happens in an analysis is that the subject, strictly speaking, is 
constituted through a discourse to which the mere presence of the psychoan- 
alyst, prior to any intervention he may make, brings the dimension of dialogue. 

Whatever irresponsibility, not to say incoherence, the conventions of the 
fundamental rule of psychoanalysis impose on the principle of this discourse, 
it is clear that they are merely a hydraulic engineer's artifices (see the case of 
Dora, p. 15), 2 intended to ensure the crossing of certain dams, and that the 

Presentation on Transference ijy 

course must proceed according to the laws of a kind of gravitation that is pecu- 
liar to it, which is called truth. For "truth" is the name of the ideal movement 
that this discourse introduces into reality. In short, psychoanalysis is a dialec- 
tical experience, and this notion should prevail when raising the question of the 
nature of transference. 

My sole design here will be to show, by means of an example, the kind of 
propositions to which this line of argument might lead. But first I will allow 
myself a few remarks that strike me as urgent for the present guidance of our 
work of theoretical elaboration, relating, as they do, to the responsibilities thrust 
upon us by our historical times and the tradition entrusted to our keeping. 

Doesn't the fact that a dialectical conception of psychoanalysis has to be 
presented as an orientation peculiar to my way of thinking indicate misrecog- 
nition of an immediate given, and even of the commonsensical fact that psy- 
choanalysis relies solely upon words? Must we not recognize, in the privileged 
attention paid to the function of the nonverbal aspects of behavior in the psy- 
chological maneuver, a preference on the part of the analyst for a vantage point 
from which the subject is no longer anything but an object? If, indeed, such 
misrecognition is occurring here, we must investigate it according to the meth- 217 

ods we would apply in any other such case. 

It is well known that I am inclined to think that, at the very moment when 
psychology, and with it all the human sciences, underwent a profound 
revamping of perspectives due to conceptions stemming from psychoanaly- 
sis (even if it was without their consent or even their knowledge), the oppo- 
site movement took place among analysts that I would describe in the 
following terms: 

Whereas Freud assumed responsibility for showing us that there are ill- 
nesses that speak (unlike Hesiod, for whom the illnesses sent by Zeus come 
over men in silence) and for making us hear the truth of what they say, it 
seems that this truth inspires more fear in the practitioners who perpetuate 
this technique as its relation to a historical moment and an institutional cri- 
sis becomes clearer. 

Thus, in any number of forms, ranging from pietism to ideals of the crud- 
est efficiency, running the whole gamut of naturalist propaedeutics, they can 
be seen seeking refuge under the wing of a psychologism which, in reifying 
human beings, could lead to crimes next to which those of the physicist's sci- 
entism would pale. 

For due to the very power of the forces exposed by analysis, nothing less 
than a new type of alienation of man will come into being, as much through 
the efforts of a collective belief as through the activity of selecting techniques 

iy8 Ecrits 

with all the formative scope of rituals: in short, a homo psychologies , the dan- 
ger of which I am warning you against. 

Will we allow ourselves to be fascinated by the fabrication of homo psy- 
chologicus? Or can we, by rethinking Freud's work, find anew the authentic 
meaning of his initiative and the means by which to maintain its salutary value? 

Let me stress here, should there be any need to do so, that these questions 
are in no sense directed at the work of someone like my friend Lagache; the 
prudence of his method, the scrupulousness of his procedure, and the open- 
ness of his conclusions are all exemplary of the distance between our praxis 
and psychology. I will base my demonstration on the case of Dora, because of 

21 8 what it stood for in the still new experience of transference, being the first case 
in which Freud recognized that the analyst plays a part. 3 

It is striking that heretofore no one has stressed that the case of Dora is laid 
out by Freud in the form of a series of dialectical reversals. This is not a mere 
contrivance for presenting material whose emergence is left up to the patient, 
as Freud clearly states here. What is involved is a scansion of structures in 
which truth is transmuted for the subject, structures that affect not only her 
comprehension of things, but her very position as a subject, her "objects" being 
a function of that position. This means that the conception of the case history 
is identical to the progress of the subject, that is, to the reality of the treatment. 

Now, this is the first time Freud uses the term "transference" as the con- 
cept of the obstacle owing to which the analysis broke down. This alone gives 
the examination I will conduct here of the dialectical relations that constituted 
the moment of failure its value, at the very least, as a return to the source. I 
will attempt hereby to define in terms of pure dialectic the transference that is said 
to be negative on the part of the subject as the doing [operation] of the analyst 
who interprets it. 

We shall, however, have to review all the phases that led up to this moment, 
and examine it in terms of the problematic anticipations which, in the facts of 
the case, indicate where it might have found a successful outcome. Thus we find: 

A first development, which is exemplary in that it takes us straight to the level 
of the assertion of truth. For Dora, having tested Freud to see if he would 
prove to be as hypocritical as her father, begins her indictment by opening up 
a file full of memories whose rigor contrasts with the lack of biographical pre- 
cision characteristic of neurosis: Frau K and her father have been lovers for 
so many years, and have been hiding it with what are at times ridiculous fic- 
tions; but what takes the cake is that Dora is thus offered up defenseless to 
Herr K's attentions, to which her father turns a blind eye, thus making her the 
object of an odious exchange. 

219 Freud is far too wise to the constancy of the social lie to have been duped 

Presentation on Transference ijg 

by it, even from the mouth of a man he believes owes him the whole story. He 
therefore has no difficulty in removing from the patient's mind any imputa- 
tion of complicity regarding this lie. But at the end of this development he 
finds himself faced with a question, which is classic in the first stages of treat- 
ment: "All of this is factual, being based on reality and not on my own will. 
What's to be done about it?" To which Freud replies with: 

A first dialectical reversal, which in no wise pales next to Hegel's analysis 
of the claim made by the "beautiful soul" who rises up against the world in 
the name of the law of the heart: "Look at your own involvement," he tells 
her, "in the mess [desordre] you complain of" (p. 32). 4 What then appears is: 

A second development of truth, namely, that it was not on the basis of Dora's 
mere silence, but of her complicity and even vigilant protection, that the fic- 
tion had been able to last which allowed the relationship between the two lovers 
to continue. 

What can be seen here is not simply Dora's participation in Herr K's 
courtship of which she is the object; new light is shed on her relationship with 
the other partners of the quadrille by the fact that it is caught up in a subtle 
circulation of precious gifts, which serves to make up for a deficiency in sex- 
ual services. This circulation starts with her father in relation to Frau K, and 
then comes back to the patient through Herr K's consequent availability, in no 
way diminishing the lavish generosity which comes to her directly from the 
first source, by way of parallel gifts — this being the classic manner of mak- 
ing amends by which the bourgeois male manages to combine reparation due 
his lawful wedded wife with his concern for passing on an inheritance (note 
that the presence of the figure of the wife is reduced here to this lateral link in 
the chain of exchanges). 

At the same time Dora's Oedipal relation turns out to be grounded in an 
identification with her father, which is fostered by his sexual impotence and 
is, moreover, experienced by Dora as identical to his supervalent status as rich; 
this is betrayed by the unconscious allusion Dora is allowed by the semantics 
of the word "rich" [fortune] in German: Vermogen. Indeed, this identification 220 

was apparent in all the conversion symptoms presented by Dora, a large num- 
ber of which were removed by this discovery. 

The following question then arises: In light of this, what is the meaning 
of the jealousy Dora suddenly shows toward her father's love affair? The fact 
that this jealousy presents itself in such a supervalent form calls for an expla- 
nation which goes beyond her [apparent] motives (p. 50). 5 Here takes place: 

The second dialectical reversal, which Freud brings about by commenting 
that, far from the alleged object of jealousy providing her true motive, it con- 
ceals an interest in the rival-subject herself, an interest whose nature, since it 

180 Ecrits 

is quite foreign to ordinary discourse, can only be expressed in it in this inverted 
form. This gives rise to: 

A third development of truth. Dora's fascinated attachment to Frau K ("her 
adorable white body"), the confessions Dora received — how far they went 
shall remain unsounded — on the state of Frau K's relations with her husband, 
and the blatant fact of their exchanges of useful techniques as mutual ambas- 
sadors of their desires regarding Dora's father. 

Freud glimpsed the question to which this new development was leading. 

["]If, therefore, it is being dispossessed by this woman that makes you so 
bitter, how come you do not resent her for betraying you further by accusing 
you of intrigue and perversity, imputations which they all now believe when 
they accuse you of lying? What is the motive for this loyalty which makes you 
keep for her the deepest secret of your relations? ["] (in other words, the sex- 
ual initiation, readily discernible in the very accusations made by Frau K). It 
is this very secret which brings us to: 

The third dialectical reversal, the one that would reveal to us the real value 
of the object that Frau K is for Dora. Frau K is not an individual, but a mys- 
tery, the mystery of Dora's own femininity, by which I mean her bodily fem- 
ininity — as it appears undisguised in the second of the two dreams whose study 
221 makes up the second part of the case history, dreams I suggest you reread in 

order to see how greatly their interpretation is simplified by my commentary. 

The boundary post we must go around in order to reverse course one last 
time already appears within reach. It is the most distant image that Dora 
retrieves from her early childhood (didn't all the keys always fall into 
Freud's hands, even in those cases that were broken off like this one?): that 
of Dora, probably still an infant, sucking her left thumb, while with her right 
hand she tugs at the ear of her brother, who is her elder by a year and a half 
(pp. 20 and 47). 6 

What we seem to have here is the imaginary mold in which all the situa- 
tions orchestrated by Dora during her life came to be cast — a perfect illus- 
tration of the theory, yet to appear in Freud 's work, of repetition automatisms. 
We can gauge in it what woman and man signify to her now. 

Woman is the object which cannot be dissociated from a primitive oral 
desire, in which she must nevertheless learn to recognize her own genital nature. 
(It is surprising that Freud fails to see here that Dora's aphonia during Herr 
K's absences [p. 36] 7 expressed the violent call of the oral erotic drive when 
Dora was left alone with Frau K, there being no need for him to assume she 
had seen her father receiving fellatio [p. 44] , 8 when everyone knows that cun- 
nilingus is the artifice most commonly adopted by "rich men" [messieurs for- 
tunes] when their powers begin to fail them.) In order for her to gain access to 

Presentation on Transference 181 

this recognition of her femininity, she would have to assume [assumer] her own 
body, failing which she remains open to the functional fragmentation (to refer 
to the theoretical contribution of the mirror stage) that constitutes conversion 

Now, her only means for gaining this access was via her earliest imago, which 
shows us that the only path open to her to the object was via the masculine 
partner, with whom, because of their difference in age, she was able to iden- 
tify, in that primordial identification through which the subject recognizes 
herself as/. . . 

Hence Dora identified with Herr K, just as she was in the process of iden- 222 

tifying with Freud himself (the fact that it was upon waking from her "trans- 
ference" dream that Dora noticed the smell of smoke associated with the two 
men is not indicative, as Freud says [p. 67], 9 of some more deeply repressed 
identification, but rather of the fact that this hallucination corresponded to the 
twilight stage of the return to the ego). And all her dealings with the two men 
manifest the aggressiveness in which we see the dimension characteristic of 
narcissistic alienation. 

Thus it is true, as Freud thinks, that the return to a passionate complaint 
about the father represents a regression when compared with the relations that 
had begun to develop with Herr K. 

But this homage, whose beneficial value for Dora was glimpsed by Freud, 
could be received by her as a manifestation of desire only if she could accept 
herself as an object of desire — that is, only once she had exhausted the mean- 
ing of what she was looking for in Frau K. 

As is true for all women, and for reasons that are at the very crux of the 
most elementary social exchanges (the very exchanges Dora names as the 
grounds for her revolt), the problem of her condition is fundamentally that of 
accepting herself as a man's object of desire, and this is the mystery that moti- 
vates Dora's idolization of Frau K. In her long meditation before the Madonna 
and in her recourse to the role of distant worshipper, this mystery drives Dora 
toward the solution Christianity has offered for this subjective impasse by mak- 
ing woman the object of a divine desire or a transcendent object of desire, 
which amounts to the same thing. 

If, therefore, in a third dialectical reversal, Freud had directed Dora 
towards a recognition of what Frau K was for her, by getting her to confess 
the deepest secrets of their relationship, wouldn't that have contributed to his 
prestige (I am merely touching on the question of the meaning of positive trans- 
ference here), opening up the path to her recognition of the virile object? This 
is not my opinion, but rather Freud's (p. 107). 10 

But the fact that his failure to do so was fatal to the treatment is attributed 

182 Ecrits 

by Freud to the action of the transference (pp. 103-7), 1 1 to his error that makes 
him put off the interpretation thereof (p. 106), 12 when, as he was able to ascer- 

223 tain after the fact, he had only two hours left to sidestep its effects (p. 106). 13 

But each time he proffers this explanation — whose subsequent develop- 
ment in analytic doctrine is well known — a footnote provides recourse to 
another explanation: his inadequate appreciation of the homosexual tie bind- 
ing Dora to Frau K. 

What does this mean if not that the second reason only struck him truly as 
the most crucial in 1923, whereas the first bore fruit in his thinking beginning 
in 1905, the year the Dora case study was published? 

Which side should we choose? Surely that of believing both accounts and 
attempting to grasp what can be deduced from their synthesis. 

What we then find is this: Freud admits that for a long time he was unable 
to face this homosexual tendency (which he nonetheless tells us is so constant 
in hysterics that its subjective role cannot be overestimated) without falling 
into a state of distress (p. 107, note) 14 that rendered him incapable of dealing 
with it satisfactorily. 

I would say that this has to be ascribed to a bias, the very same bias that fal- 
sifies the conception of the Oedipus complex right from the outset, making 
him consider the predominance of the paternal figure to be natural, rather 
than normative — the same bias that is expressed simply in the well-known 
refrain, "Thread is to needle as girl is to boy." 

Freud has felt kindly toward Herr K for a long time, since it was Herr K 
who brought Dora's father to Freud (p. 18), 15 and this comes out in numer- 
ous comments he makes (p. 27, note). 16 After the treatment founders, Freud 
persists in dreaming of a "victory of love" (p. 99). 17 

Freud admits to his personal investment in Dora, interesting him as she does, 
at many points in the account. The truth of the matter is that she brings the 
whole case alive in a way which, vaulting the theoretical digressions, elevates 
this text, among the psychopathological monographs that constitute a genre in 
our literature, to the tone of a Princesse de Cleves bound by an infernal gag. 

224 It is because he put himself rather too much in Herr K's shoes that Freud 
did not succeed in moving the Infernal Regions this time around. 

Due to his countertransference, Freud harps too often on the love Herr K 
supposedly inspired in Dora, and it is odd to see how he always interprets 
Dora's very varied retorts as though they were confessions. The session when 
he thinks he has reduced her to "no longer contradicting him" (p. 93) 18 and at 
the end of which he believes he can express his satisfaction to her, Dora in fact 
concludes on a very different note. "Why, has anything so very remarkable 

Presentation on Transference 183 

come out?" she says, and it is at the beginning of the next session that she 
[announces that she is going to] take leave of him. 

What thus happened during the scene of the lakeside declaration, the catas- 
trophe which drove Dora to illness, leading everyone to recognize her as ill — 
this, ironically, being their response to her refusal to continue to serve as a 
prop for their common infirmity (not all the "gains" of a neurosis work solely 
to the advantage of the neurotic)? 

As in any valid interpretation, we need but stick to the text in order to under- 
stand it. Herr K could only get in a few words, decisive though they were: 
"My wife is nothing to me." His reward for this feat was instantaneous — a 
hard slap (whose burning after-effects Dora felt long after the treatment had 
ended in the form of a transitory neuralgia) quipped back to the blunderer, 
"If she is nothing to you, then what are you to me?" 

What then would he be to her, this puppet who had nonetheless just bro- 
ken the spell she had been living under for years? 

The latent pregnancy fantasy that followed this scene does not invalidate 
my interpretation, since it is well known that it occurs in hysterics precisely 
as a function of their identification with men. 

It is through the very same trap door that Freud disappears, with a still more 
insidious sliding. Dora leaves with a Mona Lisa smile and even when she reap- 
pears, Freud is not so naive as to believe she intends to resume her analysis. 

By that time, she has gotten everyone to recognize the truth which, as truth- 
ful as it may be, she nevertheless knows does not constitute the final truth; and 
she has managed through the mere mana of her presence to precipitate the 225 

unfortunate Herr K under the wheels of a carriage. The subsidence of her symp- 
toms, which had been brought about during the second phase of the treatment, 
did last, nevertheless. Thus the arrest of the dialectical process resulted in an 
apparent retreat, but the positions recaptured could only be held by an affir- 
mation of the ego, which can be considered progress. 

What then is this transference whose work, Freud states somewhere, goes 
on invisibly behind the progress of the treatment and whose effects, further- 
more, are "not susceptible of definite proof " (p. 67)? 19 Can it not be consid- 
ered here to be an entity altogether related to countertransference, defined as 
the sum total of the analyst's biases, passions, and difficulties, or even of his 
inadequate information, at any given moment in the dialectical process? 
Doesn't Freud himself tell us (p. 105) 20 that Dora might have transferred the 
paternal figure onto him, had he been foolish enough to believe the version 
of things her father had presented to him? 

In other words, transference is nothing real in the subject if not the appear- 

1 84 Ecrits 

ance, at a moment of stagnation in the analytic dialectic, of the permanent 
modes according to which she constitutes her objects. 

What then does it mean to interpret transference? Nothing but to fill the 
emptiness of this standstill with a lure. But even though it is deceptive, this 
lure serves a purpose by setting the whole process in motion anew. 

The denial [denegation] with which Dora would have greeted any sugges- 
tion by Freud that she was imputing to him the same intentions as those that 
Herr K had displayed, would not in any way have changed the scope of the 
suggestion's effects. The very opposition to which it would have given rise 
would probably, despite Freud, have set Dora off in the right direction: the 
one that would have led her to the object of her real interest. 

And to have set himself up personally as a substitute for Herr K would have 
spared Freud from overemphasizing the value of Herr K's marriage proposals. 

Thus transference does not fall under any mysterious property of affec- 
tivity and, even when it reveals itself in an emotional [e'moi] guise, this guise 
has a meaning only as a function of the dialectical moment at which it occurs. 

But this moment is of no great significance since it normally signals an error 
226 on the analyst's part, if only that of wanting what is good for the patient to 

too great an extent, a danger Freud warned against on many occasions. 

Thus analytic neutrality derives its authentic meaning from the position of 
the pure dialectician who, knowing that all that is real is rational (and vice 
versa), knows that all that exists, including the evil against which he struggles, 
is and shall always be equivalent to the level of its particularity, and that the 
subject only progresses through the integration he arrives at of his position 
into the universal: technically speaking, through the projection of his past into 
a discourse in the process of becoming. 

The case of Dora is especially relevant for demonstrating this in that, since 
it involves an hysteric, the screen of the ego is transparent enough for there 
never to be, as Freud said, a lower threshold between the unconscious and 
the conscious, or better, between analytic discourse and the key [mot] to the 

I believe, however, that transference always has the same meaning of indi- 
cating the moments where the analyst goes astray and takes anew his bearings, 
and the same value of reminding us of our role: that of a positive nonaction 
aiming at the ortho-dramatization of the patient's subjectivity. 


1 . In short, this consists of the psychologi- that of the generally felt need to resolve a 
cal effect produced by an unfinished task when musical phrase, 
it leaves a gestalt in abeyance — for instance, 2. PUF, 8; SE VII, 1 6 [Lacan explains his ref- 

Presentation on Transference 


erence format in the next footnote]. 

3. So that the reader can verify the verba- 
tim character of my commentary, wherever I 
refer to Freud 's case study I provide references 
to the Denoel edition [Cinq psychanafyses, 
translated by Marie Bonaparte and Rudolf 
Loewenstein (Paris: Denoel & Steele, 1935)] 
in the text and to the 1954 Presses Universi- 
taires de France edition [Cinq psychanalyses, 
revised by Anne Berman (Paris: PUF, 1 954)] 
in the footnotes. [The translator has added the 
corresponding references to volume VII of the 
Standard Edition.] 

4. PUF, 23-24; SE VII, 34-36. 

5. PUF, 39; SE VII, 54. 

6. PUF, 12 and 37; SE VII, 21 and 51. 

7. PUF, 27; SE VII, 39^0. 

8. PUF, 33; SE VII, 47^8. 

9. PUF, 54; SE VII, 73-74. 

10. PUF, 90 [footnote 1]; SE VII, 120, foot- 
note 1. 

11. PUF, 86-90; SE VII, 1 15-20. 

12. PUF, 89; SE VII, 118-19. 

13. PUF, 89; SE VII, 118-19. 

14. PUF, 90 [footnote 1]; SE VII, 120, foot- 
note 1. 

15. PUF, \\;SEVll, 19. 

16. PUF, 19 [footnote 1]; SE VII, 29, foot- 
note 3. 

17. PUF, 82; SE VII, 109-10. 

18. PUF, 77-78; SE VII, 103-5. 

19. PUF, 54; SE VII, 74. 

20. PUF, 88;^ VII, 118-19. 

On the Subject Who Is Finally in Question 229 

Including a whiff of enthusiasm in a written text utterly ensures that it will 
become dated, in the regrettable sense of the term. Let us regret this as 
regards my Rome discourse ["Function and Field of Speech and Language"], 
which immediately became dated, the circumstances I mentioned in it lead- 
ing to nothing that attenuated the problem. 

In publishing it, I assumed it would be of interest to read, misunder- 
standing and all. 

Even in wishing to be cautious, I will not redouble its original address 
(to the Congress) with an "address to the reader," when the constant fea- 
ture — which I mentioned at the outset — of my address to psychoanalysts 
culminated here in being adapted to a group that called upon me for help. 

Instead, my parry [parade] will be to redouble its interest, assuming 
that unveiling what commands it, whether the subject is conscious of this 
or not, does not divide that interest. 

I wish to speak of the subject called into question by this discourse, 
when putting him back into his place here — from the point where I, for 
my part, have not failed him — is simply to honor the place where he asked 
us to meet him. 

I will no longer do anything for the reader henceforth — apart from 
pointing out, a little further on, the aim of my Seminar — but trust in his 
tete-a-tete with texts that are certainly no easier, but that are intrinsically 

igo Ecrits 

M eta, the post that marks the turning point to be approached as closely 
as possible in a race, is the metaphor I will give him as a viaticum in remind- 
ing him of the new [inedit] discourse I have been pronouncing every 
Wednesday of the academic year since that time, whose circulation else- 
where he may possibly attend to (if he does not attend in person). 

Regarding the subject who is called into question, training analysis will 
be my point of departure. As we know, this is the name for a psychoanalysis 
230 that one proposes to undertake for the purpose of training — especially as 

an element in qualifying to practice psychoanalysis. 

When a psychoanalysis is specified by such a request [demande] [made 
by a potential analysand to an analyst], the supposedly ordinary parame- 
ters of analysis are considered to be modified, and the analyst thinks that 
he must deal with that. 

Accepting to conduct an analysis under such conditions brings with it 
a responsibility. It is curious to note how that responsibility is displaced 
onto the guarantees that one derives from it. 

For the unexpected baptism received by that which proposes to under- 
take training, in the form of a "personal psychoanalysis" 1 (as if there were 
any other form of analysis) — assuming that in it things are brought back 
to the uninviting point desired — does not seem to me to in any way con- 
cern what the proposal leads to in the subject whom we welcome in this 
way, in sum, neglecting that "personal analysis." 

Perhaps we will see more clearly if we purify the said subject of his pre- 
occupations, which can be summarized with the term "propaganda": the 
ranks of analysts which must be swelled, the faith which must be propa- 
gated, and the standard which must be protected. 

Let us extract from this the subject who is implied by the request 
[demande] in which he presents himself. The reader will take a step for- 
ward if he notes here that the unconscious gives him a poor basis upon 
which to reduce this subject to what the realm of precision instrumenta- 
tion designates as "subjective error" — assuming he is prepared to add that 
psychoanalysis does not have the privilege of a more consistent subject, 
but must rather allow us to shed light on him in the avenues of other dis- 
ciplines as well. 

This ambitious approach would unduly distract us from acknowledg- 
ing what we in fact argue on the basis of: namely, the subject whom we 
qualify (and significantly so) as a patient, which is not the subject as strictly 
implied by his request [demande], but rather the product that we would 
like to see determined by it. 

On the Subject Who Is Finally in Question 191 

In other words, we obscure the picture in the very process of painting 
it. In the name of this patient, our listening too will be patient. It is for his 
own good that techniques are elaborated so we will know how to meas- 
ure the aid we provide. The point is to make the psychoanalyst capable of 
this patience and measurement. But, after all, the uncertainty that remains 
regarding the very end of analysis has the effect of leaving between the 
patient and the subject that we append to him only the difference, prom- 
ised to the second, of repeating the experience [with patients of his own], 
it even being legitimated that their theoretical equivalence is fully main- 231 

tained in the countertransference. How then could training analysis con- 
stitute a problem? 

I have no negative intention in preparing this balance sheet. I am simply 
pointing out the way things are — a situation in which we find many oppor- 
tune remarks, a permanent calling into question of technique, and often 
odd glows in the enthusiasm of avowing — in short, a richness which can 
certainly be understood as the fruit of the relativism that is characteristic 
of our discipline and that provides it with its guarantee. 

Even the objection that stems from the total absence of discussion of 
the end of training analysis can go unheeded given the unquestionable 
nature of the usual routine. 

Only the never broached question of the threshold that must be 
reached in order for a psychoanalyst to be promoted to the rank of "train- 
ing analyst" (where the criterion of seniority is derisory) reminds us that 
it is the subject in question in training analysis who poses a problem and 
who remains an intact subject there. 

Shouldn't we, rather, conceptualize training analysis as the perfect form 
which sheds light on analysis itself, since it provides a restriction to it? 

Such is the reversal that never occurred to anyone before I mentioned 
it. It seems to force itself upon us, nevertheless. For while psychoanalysis 
has a specific field, the concern with therapeutic results justifies short-cir- 
cuits and even tempering modifications within it; but if there is one case 
in which all such reductions are prohibited, it must be training analysis. 

Should someone claim that I am maintaining that the training of 
analysts is what psychoanalysis is most justified in doing, he would be 
barking up the wrong tree. For such insolence, were it such, would not 
implicate psychoanalysts. Rather, it would point to a certain gap in civi- 
lization that must be filled, but which is not yet clearly enough discerned 
for anyone to boast that he has taken it upon himself to do so. 

Only a theory that is capable of grounding psychoanalysis in a way 
that preserves its relationship to science can pave the way for this. 

i$)2 Ecrits 

It is obvious that psychoanalysis was born from science. It is incon- 
ceivable that it could have arisen from another field. 

It is no accident but rather a consequence that in those circles where 
psychoanalysis distinguishes itself by remaining Freudian, it is considered 
self-evident that psychoanalysis has no other support than that of science 
and that there is no possible transition to psychoanalysis from the realm 
232 of the esoteric, by which practices that seem to be similar to psychoanalysis 

are structured. 

How then can we account for the obvious misunderstandings that 
abound in the conceptualizations in vogue in established circles? Regard- 
less of how their creations are slapped together — from the supposed feel- 
ings of unity, where, at the height of the treatment the bliss that we are led 
to believe inaugurates libidinal development is found anew, to the much- 
ballyhooed miracles obtained by reaching genital maturity, with its sub- 
lime ability to join in all regressions — we can recognize in them the mirage 
which is not even debated: the completeness of the subject. People even 
formally take such completeness as a goal which should in theory be reach- 
able, even if in practice infirmity — attributable to the technique or to the 
aftermath of the patient's history — requires that it remain an overly dis- 
tant ideal. 

Such is the crux of the theoretical extravagance, in the strict sense of the 
term, into which we see that anyone can fall, from the most authentic explorer 
of the analyst's therapeutic responsibility to the most rigorous examiner of 
analytic concepts. This can be confirmed regarding the paragon I mentioned 
first, Ferenczi, in his biological delusion about amphimixis-, and in the sec- 
ond case, where I was thinking of Jones, it can be gauged in the latter's phe- 
nomenologicalya«*/?cw, the aphanisis of desire, to which he was led by his 
need to ensure the equal rights of the sexes with respect to castration — that 
scandalous fact that can only be accepted by giving up on [the idea of] the 
subject's completeness. 

Next to these illustrious examples, we are less surprised by the profu- 
sion of economic recenterings to which each theorist gives himself over, 
extrapolating from the treatment to development, and even to human his- 
tory — for example, transferring the fantasy of castration back onto the 
anal phase, or basing everything on a universal oral neurosis . . . without 
any assignable limit to his . . . etc. At best it can be taken as evidence of 
what I will call the naivete of personal perversion, the thing being under- 
stood to give way to some illumination. 

I am not referring here to the inanity of the term "personal analysis," 
about which one can say that all too often what it designates is as inane as 

On the Subject Who Is Finally in Question 193 

the term itself, being sanctioned only by highly practical rearrangements. 
Whence rearises the question of the benefit this curious fabrication offers. 

The practitioner who is not inveterate is probably not insensitive to a 233 

reality that has been rendered more nostalgic by rising up to meet him, 
and he responds in this case to the essential relationship between the veil 
and his experience with myth-like sketches. 

A fact prevents us from qualifying these sketches as myths, for what 
we see in psychoanalysis are not authentic myths (by which I simply mean 
those that are found in the field), which never fail to leave visible the sub- 
ject's decompletion, but folklore-like fragments of these myths, and pre- 
cisely those that have been used by propaganda religions in their themes 
of salvation. This fact will be contested by those whose truth is hidden by 
these themes, who are all too happy to find in them corroboration for their 
truth on the basis of what they call "her meneu tics." 

(A healthy reform of spelling would allow us to give their exploita- 
tion of this term the import of a famillionaire practice: that of the faux- 
filosopher, for example, or of fuzzyosophy, without adding any more dots 
or i's.) 

Their radical vice can be seen in [their approach to] the transmission 
of knowledge. At best this transmission could be defended by comparing 
psychoanalysis to those trades in which, for centuries, transmission 
occurred only in a veiled manner, maintained by the institution of appren- 
ticeship and guild [compagnonnage]. A master's in the art and different ranks 
protect therein the secret of a substantial knowledge. (It is, nevertheless, 
the liberal arts, which do not practice the arcane, that I will refer to later 
in evoking the youth of psychoanalysis.) 

The comparison does not hold up, no matter how slight it may be. This 
is so clear that one might say that reality itself is designed in such a way 
as to reject this comparison, since what it requires is an entirely different 
position of the subject. 

The theory — or rather the hackneyed views that go by this name, the 
formulations of which are so variable that it sometimes seems that the only 
thing they have in common is their insipid character — is merely the fill- 
ing of a locus in which a deficiency can be demonstrated without our even 
knowing how to formulate it. 

I propose an algebra that tries to correspond, in the place thus defined, 
to what the sort of logic that is known as symbolic does when it establishes 
the rights of mathematical practice. 

I realize full well how much prudence and care are required to do so. 

All I can say here is that it is important to preserve the availability of 

194 Ecrits 

the experience acquired by the subject — in the characteristic structure of 

234 displacement and splitting in which that experience had to be constituted — 
referring the reader to my actual discussions of this topic. 

What I must stress here is that I claim to pave the way for the scientific 
position of psychoanalysis by analyzing in what way it is already implied 
at the very heart of the psychoanalytic discovery. 

The reform of the subject that is inaugural in psychoanalysis must be 
related to the reform that occurs at the core of science, the latter involv- 
ing a certain reprieve from ambiguous questions that one might call ques- 
tions of truth. 

It is difficult not to see that, even before the advent of psychoanalysis, 
a dimension that might be called that of the symptom was introduced, 
which was articulated on the basis of the fact that it represents the return 
of truth as such into the gap of a certain knowledge. 

I am not referring to the classical problem of error, but rather to a con- 
crete manifestation that must be appreciated "clinically," in which we find 
not a failure of representation but a truth of another reference than the one, 
whether representation or not, whose fine order it manages to disturb . . . 

In this sense, one can say that this dimension is highly differentiated in 
Marx's critique, even if it is not made explicit there. And one can say that 
a part of the reversal of Hegel that he carries out is constituted by the return 
(which is a materialist return, precisely insofar as it gives it figure and 
body) of the question of truth. The latter actually forces itself upon us, I 
would go so far as to say, not by taking up the thread of the ruse of rea- 
son, a subtle form with which Hegel sends it packing, but by upsetting 
these ruses (read Marx's political writings) which are merely dressed up 
with reason . . . 

I am aware of the precision with which it is fitting to accompany this 
theme of truth and its detour [biais] in knowledge — which is nevertheless 
the crux, it seems to me, of philosophy as such. 

I am only mentioning it in order to point out the leap made by Freud 

Freud sets himself apart from the rest by clearly linking the status of 
the symptom to the status of his own operation, for the Freudian opera- 
tion is the symptom's proper operation, in the two senses of the term. 

Unlike a sign — or smoke which is never found in the absence of fire, 
a fire that smoke indicates with the possible call to put it out — a symptom 
can only be interpreted in the signifying order. A signifier has meaning 

235 only through its relation to another signifier. The truth of symptoms 

On the Subject Who Is Finally in Question i<)5 

resides in this articulation. Symptoms remained somewhat vague when 
they were understood as representing some irruption of truth. In fact they 
are truth, being made of the same wood from which truth is made, if we 
posit materialistically that truth is what is instated on the basis of the sig- 
nifying chain. 

I would like to distinguish myself from the level of joking around at 
which certain theoretical debates ordinarily occur. 

I will do so by asking how we are supposed to take what smoke, since 
that is the classical paradigm, proposes to our gaze when it billows out of 
crematorium furnaces. 

I do not doubt that people will agree that we can take it only in terms 
of its signifying value; and that even if we were to refuse to be dumbfounded 
by the criterion here, this smoke would remain for the materialist reduc- 
tion an element that is less metaphorical than all the smoke that could be 
stirred up in debating whether what it represents should be broached from 
a biological or a social standpoint. 

By taking one's bearings from the joint between the consequences of 
language and the desire for knowledge — a joint that the subject is — per- 
haps the paths will become more passable regarding what has always been 
known about the distance that separates the subject from his existence as 
a sexed being, not to mention as a living being. 

And, indeed, the construction that I provide of the subject in follow- 
ing the thread of Freudian experience removes none of the personal 
poignancy from the several displacements and splits he may have to 
undergo in the course of his training analysis. 

If his training analysis registers the resistances he has overcome, it is 
insofar as they fill the space of defense in which the subject is organized; 
it is only on the basis of certain structural reference points that one can 
pinpoint the trajectory he is following, in order to outline its exhaustion. 

Similarly, a certain order of construction can be required regarding what 
must be attained by way of what fundamentally screens the real in the 
unconscious fantasy. 

All of these verification values will not stop castration — which is the 
key to the subject's radical dodge \biais\ by which the symptom comes 
into being — from remaining, even in a training analysis, the enigma that 
the subject resolves only by avoiding it. 

At least if some order — being established in what he has experi- 
enced — later gave him responsibility for his statements, he would not try 
to reduce to the anal phase that aspect of castration that he grasped in the 
[fundamental] fantasy. 

196 Ecrits 

In other words, analytic experience would be protected from sanc- 
236 tioning theoretical orientations that are likely to lead to the derailing of 

its transmission. 

The status of training analysis and of the teaching of psychoanalysis 
must be understood anew to be identical in their scientific openness. 

The latter involves, like any other teaching, minimal conditions: a 
defined relationship to the instrument as an instrument and a certain idea 
of the question raised by the material. The fact that the two converge here 
in a question, which is not thereby simplified, nevertheless, will perhaps 
close this other question with which psychoanalysis redoubles the first, in 
the form of a question posed to science, by constituting a science by itself 
which is raised to the second power [au second degre]. 

Should the reader be surprised that I am raising this question so late in 
the game — and with the same temperament which is such that it required 
two of the most improbable echoes of my teaching to receive from two col- 
lege students in the United States the careful (and successful) translation 
that two of my articles (including "Function and Field") deserved — he 
should realize that my top priority was that there first be psychoanalysts. 

At least I can now be happy that as long as there is still some trace of 
what I have instituted, there will be some psychoanalyst \du psychanafyste] 
who responds to certain subjective emergencies, should qualifying them 
with the definite article be saying too much, or else still desiring too much. 



1 . A means by which people avoid having to decide at first whether a psychoanaly- 
sis will or will not be a training analysis. 

The Function and Field of Speech 237 

and Language in Psychoanalysis 

Paper delivered at the Rome Congress held at the Institute of 
Psychology at the University of Rome on September 26 and 27, 1953 


In particular, it should not be forgotten that the division into embryology, 
anatomy, physiology, psychology, sociology, and clinical work does not exist 
in nature and that there is only one discipline: a neurobiology to which obser- 
vation obliges us to add the epithet human when it concerns us. 
— Quotation chosen as an inscription for a psychoanalytic institute in 1952 

The talk included here warrants an introduction that provides some context, 
since it was marked by its context. 

The theme of this talk was proposed to me and my contribution was 
intended to constitute the customary theoretical paper given at the annual meet- 
ing that the association representing psychoanalysis in France at that time had 
held for eighteen years, a venerable tradition known as the "Congress of 
French-Speaking Psychoanalysts," though for the past two years it had been 
extended to Romance-language-speaking psychoanalysts (Holland being 
included out of linguistic tolerance). The Congress was to take place in Rome 
in September of 1953. 

In the meantime, serious disagreements led to a secession within the French 
group. These disagreements came out on the occasion of the founding of a 
"psychoanalytic institute." The team that succeeded in imposing its statutes 
and program on the new institute was then heard to proclaim that it would 
prevent the person who, along with others, had tried to introduce a different 

198 Ecrits 

conception of analysis from speaking in Rome, and it employed every means 
in its power to do so. 

238 Yet it did not seem to those who thus founded the new Societe Franchise 
de Psychanalyse that they had to deprive the majority of the students, who 
had rallied to their teaching, of the forthcoming event, or even to hold it else- 
where than in the eminent place in which it had been planned to be held. 

The generous fellow feeling that had been shown them by the Italian group 
meant that they could hardly be regarded as unwelcome guests in the Uni- 
versal City. 

For my part, I considered myself assisted — however unequal I might prove 
to be to the task of speaking about speech — by a certain complicity inscribed 
in the place itself. 

Indeed, I recalled that, well before the glory of the world's loftiest throne 
had been established, Aulus Gellius, in his Noctes A tticae, attributed to the place 
called Mons Vaticanus the etymology vagire, which designates the first stam- 
merings of speech. 

If, then, my talk was to be nothing more than a newborn's cry, at least it 
would seize the auspicious moment to revamp the foundations our discipline 
derives from language. 

Moreover, this revamping derived too much meaning from history for me 
not to break with the traditional style — that places a "paper" somewhere 
between a compilation and a synthesis — in order to adopt an ironic style suit- 
able to a radical questioning of the foundations of our discipline. 

Since my audience was to be the students who expected me to speak, it was 
above all with them in mind that I composed this talk, and for their sake that 
I dispensed with the rules, observed by our high priests, requiring one to mime 
rigor with meticulousness and confuse rule with certainty. 

Indeed, in the conflict that led to the present outcome, people had shown 
such an exorbitant degree of misrecognition regarding the students' auton- 
omy as subjects that the first requirement was to counteract the constant tone 
that had permitted this excess. 

The fact is that a vice came to light that went well beyond the local cir- 
cumstances that led to the conflict. The very fact that one could claim to reg- 
ulate the training of psychoanalysts in so authoritarian a fashion raised the 
question whether the established modes of such training did not paradoxically 
result in perpetual minimization. 

239 The initiatory and highly organized forms which Freud considered to be a 
guarantee of his doctrine 's transmission are certainly justified by the situation 
of a discipline that can only perpetuate itself by remaining at the level of a 
complete experience. 

The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis 199 

But haven't these forms led to a disappointing formalism that discourages 
initiative by penalizing risk, and turns the reign of the opinion of the learned 
into a principle of docile prudence in which the authenticity of research is 
blunted even before it finally dries up? 

The extreme complexity of the notions brought into play in our field is 
such that in no other area does a mind run a greater risk, in laying bare its 
judgment, of discovering its true measure. 

But this ought to result in making it our first, if not only, concern to eman- 
cipate theses by elucidating principles. 

The severe selection that is, indeed, required cannot be left to the endless 
postponements of a fastidious cooptation, but should be based on the fecun- 
dity of concrete production and the dialectical testing of contradictory claims. 

This does not imply that I particularly value divergence. On the contrary, I 
was surprised to hear, at the London International Congress — where, because 
we had failed to follow the prescribed forms, we had come as appellants — a per- 
sonality well disposed toward us deplore the fact that we could not justify our 
secession on the grounds of some doctrinal disagreement. Does this mean that 
an association that is supposed to be international has some other goal than that 
of maintaining the principle of the collective nature of our experience? 

It is probably no big secret that it has been eons since this was the case, and 
it was without creating the slightest scandal that, to the impenetrable Mr. Zil- 
boorg — who, making ours a special case, insisted that no secession should be 
accepted unless it is based on a scientific dispute — the penetrating Mr. Walder 
could reply that, if we were to challenge the principles in which each of us 
believes his experience is grounded, our walls would very quickly dissolve 
into the confusion of Babel. 

To my way of thinking, if I innovate, I prefer not to make a virtue of it. 

In a discipline that owes its scientific value solely to the theoretical con- 
cepts Freud hammered out as his experience progressed — concepts which, 
because they continue to be poorly examined and nevertheless retain the ambi- 
guity of everyday language, benefit from the latter 's resonances while incur- 240 
ring misunderstanding — it would seem to me to be premature to break with 
the traditional terminology. 

But it seems to me that these terms can only be made clearer if we estab- 
lish their equivalence to the current language of anthropology, or even to the 
latest problems in philosophy, fields where psychoanalysis often need but take 
back its own property. 

In any case, I consider it to be an urgent task to isolate, in concepts that are 
being deadened by routine use, the meaning they recover when we reexam- 
ine their history and reflect on their subjective foundations. 

200 Ecrits 

That, no doubt, is the teacher's function — the function on which all the 
others depend — and the one in which the value of experience figures best. 

If this function is neglected, the meaning of an action whose effects derive 
solely from meaning is obliterated, and the rules of analytic technique, being 
reduced to mere recipes, rob analytic experience of any status as knowledge 
[connaissance] and even of any criterion of reality. 

For no one is less demanding than a psychoanalyst when it comes to what 
gives his actions their status, which he himself is not far from regarding as 
magical because he doesn't know where to situate them in a conception of his 
field that he hardly dreams of reconciling with his practice. 

The epigraph with which I have adorned this preface is a rather fine exam- 
ple of this. 

Doesn't his conception of his field correspond to a conception of analytic 
training that is like that of a driving school which, not content to claim the 
unique privilege of issuing drivers' licenses, also imagines that it is in a posi- 
tion to supervise car construction? 

Whatever this comparison may be worth, it is just as valid as those which 
are bandied about in our most serious conventicles and which, because they 
originated in our discourse to idiots, do not even have the savor of inside jokes, 
but seem to gain currency nevertheless due to their pompous ineptitude. 

They begin with the well-known comparison between the candidate who 
allows himself to be prematurely dragged into practicing analysis and the sur- 
geon who operates without sterilizing his instruments, and they go on to the 
comparison that brings tears to one 's eyes for those unfortunate students who 
241 are torn by their masters' conflicts just like children torn by their parents' 


This late-born comparison seems to me to be inspired by the respect due 
to those who have, in effect, been subjected to what, toning down my thought, 
I will call a pressure to teach, which has put them sorely to the test; but on 
hearing the quavering tones of the masters, one may also wonder whether the 
limits of childishness have not, without warning, been stretched to the point 
of foolishness. 

Yet the truths contained in these cliches are worthy of more serious exam- 

As a method based on truth and demystification of subjective camouflage, 
does psychoanalysis display an incommensurate ambition to apply its princi- 
ples to its own corporation — that is, to psychoanalysts' conception of their 
role in relation to the patient, their place in intellectual society, their relations 
with their peers, and their educational mission? 

Perhaps, by reopening a few windows to the broad daylight of Freud's 

The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis 201 

thought, my paper will allay the anguish some people feel when a symbolic 
action becomes lost in its own opacity. 

Whatever the case may be, in referring to the context of my talk, I am not 
trying to blame its all too obvious shortcomings on the haste with which it was 
written, since both its meaning and its form derive from that same haste. 

Moreover, in an exemplary sophism involving inter subjective time, I have 
shown the function of haste in logical precipitation, where truth finds its unsur- 
passable condition. 1 

Nothing created appears without urgency; nothing in urgency fails to sur- 
pass itself in speech. 

Nor is there anything that does not become contingent here when the time 
comes when a man can identify in a single reason the side he takes and the dis- 
order he denounces, in order to understand their coherence in reality [reel] 
and anticipate by his certainty the action that weighs them against each other. 

Introduction 242 

We shall determine this while we are still at the aphelion of our matter, for, 
when we arrive at the perihelion, the heat is liable to make us forget it. 
— Lichtenberg 

"Flesh composed of suns. How can such be?" exclaim the simple ones. 
— R. Browning, Parleying with Certain People 

Such is the fright that seizes man when he discovers the true face of his power 
that he turns away from it in the very act — which is his act — of laying it 
bare. This is true in psychoanalysis. Freud 's Promethean discovery was such 
an act, as his work attests; but that act is no less present in each psychoana- 
lytic experience humbly conducted by any one of the workers trained in his 

One can trace over the years a growing aversion regarding the functions 
of speech and the field of language. It is responsible for the "changes in aim 
and technique" that are acknowledged within the psychoanalytic movement, 
and whose relation to the general decline in therapeutic effectiveness is nev- 
ertheless ambiguous. Indeed, the emphasis on the object's resistance in cur- 
rent psychoanalytic theory and technique must itself be subjected to the 
dialectic of analysis, which can but recognize in this emphasis the attempt to 
provide the subject with an alibi. 

Let me try to outline the topography of this movement. If we examine the 
literature that we call our "scientific activity," the current problems of psy- 
choanalysis clearly fall into three categories: 

202 Ecrits 

(A) The function of the imaginary, as I shall call it, or, to put it more directly, 
of fantasies in the technique of psychoanalytic experience and in the con- 
stitution of the object at the different stages of psychical development. 
The impetus in this area has come from the analysis of children and from 
the favorable field offered to researchers' efforts and temptations by the 
preverbal structurations approach. This is also where its culmination is 
now inducing a return by raising the question of what symbolic sanction 
is to be attributed to fantasies in their interpretation. 
243 (B) The concept of libidinal object relations which, by renewing the idea of 

treatment progress, is quietly altering the way treatment is conducted. The 
new perspective began here with the extension of psychoanalytic method 
to the psychoses and with the momentary receptiveness of psychoana- 
lytic technique to data based on a different principle. Psychoanalysis leads 
here to an existential phenomenology — indeed, to an activism motivated 
by charity. Here, too, a clear-cut reaction is working in favor of a return 
to symbolization as the crux of technique. 

(C) The importance of countertransference and, correlatively, of analytic 
training. Here the emphasis has resulted from the difficulties related to 
the termination of analytic treatment that intersect the difficulties related 
to the moment at which training analysis ends with the candidate begin- 
ning to practice. The same oscillation can be observed here: On the one 
hand, the analyst's being is said, not without audacity, to be a non-negli- 
gible factor in the effects of an analysis and even a factor whose conduct 
should be brought out into the open at the end of the game; on the other 
hand, it is put forward no less energetically that a solution can come only 
from an ever deeper exploration of the unconscious mainspring. 

Apart from the pioneering activity these three problems manifest on three 
different fronts, they have one thing in common with the vitality of the psy- 
choanalytic experience that sustains them. It is the temptation that presents 
itself to the analyst to abandon the foundation of speech, and this precisely in 
areas where its use, verging on the ineffable, would seem to require examina- 
tion more than ever: namely, the child's education by its mother, Samaritan- 
type aid, and dialectical mastery. The danger becomes great indeed if the 
analyst also abandons his own language, preferring established languages about 
whose compensations for ignorance he knows very little. 

In truth, we would like to know more about the effects of symbolization in 
the child, and the officiating mothers in psychoanalysis — even those who give 
our top committees a matriarchal air — are not exempt from the confusion of 
tongues by which Ferenczi designated the law of the child /adult relationship. 2 

The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis 203 

Our wise men's ideas about the perfect object-relation are based on a rather 
uncertain conception and, when exposed, they reveal a mediocrity that hardly 244 

does credit to the profession. 

There can be no doubt that these effects — where the psychoanalyst resem- 
bles the type of modern hero represented by ridiculous feats in situations of 
confusion — could be corrected by an appropriate return to the study of the 
functions of speech, a field the analyst ought by now to have mastered. 

But it seems that this central field of our domain has been left fallow since 
Freud. Note how he himself refrained from venturing too far into its periphery: 
He discovered children's libidinal stages by analyzing adults and intervened in 
little Hans's case only through the mediation of his parents; he deciphered a 
whole section of the language of the unconscious in paranoid delusion, but used 
for this purpose only the key text Schreber left behind in the volcanic debris of 
his spiritual catastrophe. Freud rose, however, to a position of total mastery 
regarding the dialectic of the work and the tradition of its meaning. 

Does this mean that if the place of the master remains empty, it is not so 
much due to his disappearance as to an increasing obliteration of the meaning 
of his work? To convince ourselves of this, isn't it enough for us to note what 
is happening in that place? 

A technique is being transmitted there, one that is gloomy in style — 
indeed, it is reticent in its opacity — and that any attempt to let in critical fresh 
air seems to upset. It has, in truth, assumed the appearance of a formalism that 
is taken to such ceremonial lengths that one might well suspect that it bears 
the same similarity to obsessive neurosis as Freud found so convincingly in 
the practice, if not the genesis, of religious rites. 

When we consider the literature that this activity produces for its own nour- 
ishment, the analogy becomes even more marked: the impression is often that 
of a curious closed circuit in which ignorance of the origin of terms generates 
problems in reconciling them, and in which the effort to solve these problems 
reinforces the original ignorance. 

In order to home in on the causes of this deterioration of analytic discourse, 
one may legitimately apply psychoanalytic method to the collectivity that sus- 
tains it. 

Indeed, to speak of a loss of the meaning of psychoanalytic action is as 
true and futile as it is to explain a symptom by its meaning as long as the lat- 245 

ter is not recognized. But we know that, in the absence of such recognition, 
analytic action can only be experienced as aggressive at the level at which it 
is situated; and that, in the absence of the social "resistances" which the psy- 
choanalytic group used to find reassuring, the limits of its tolerance toward 
its own activity — now "accepted," if not actually approved of — no longer 

204 Ecrits 

depend upon anything but the numerical percentage by which its presence in 
society is measured. 

These principles suffice to separate out the symbolic, imaginary, and real 
conditions that determine the defenses we can recognize in the doctrine — iso- 
lation, undoing what has been done, denial, and, in general, misrecognition. 

Thus, if the importance of the American group to the psychoanalytic 
movement is measured by its mass, we can evaluate the conditions one finds 
there by their weight. 

In the symbolic order, first of all, one cannot neglect the importance of the 
c factor which, as I noted at the Congress of Psychiatry in 1950, is a constant 
that is characteristic of a given cultural milieu: the condition, in this case, of 
ahistoricism, which is widely recognized as the major feature of "communi- 
cation" in the United States, and which in my view is diametrically opposed 
to analytic experience. To this must be added a native mindset, known as behav- 
iorism, which so dominates psychological notions in America that it clearly 
has now altogether topped Freud's inspiration in psychoanalysis. 

As for the other two orders, I leave to those concerned the task of assess- 
ing what the mechanisms that manifest themselves in the life of psychoana- 
lytic associations owe to relations of standing within the group and to the effects 
of their free enterprise felt by the whole of the social body, respectively. I also 
leave to them the task of determining the credence to be lent to a notion empha- 
sized by one of their most lucid representatives — namely, the convergence that 
occurs between the alien status of a group dominated by immigrants and the 
distance it is lured into taking from its roots by the function called for by the 
aforementioned cultural conditions. 

In any case, it seems indisputable that the conception of psychoanalysis in 
the United States has been inflected toward the adaptation of the individual 
to the social environment, the search for behavior patterns, and all the objec- 
tification implied in the notion of "human relations."* And the indigenous term, 
246 "human engineering,"* strongly implies a privileged position of exclusion with 

respect to the human object. 

Indeed, the eclipse in psychoanalysis of the liveliest terms of its experi- 
ence — the unconscious and sexuality, which will apparently cease before long 
to even be mentioned — may be attributed to the distance necessary to sustain 
such a position. 

We need not take sides concerning the formalism and small-time shop men- 
tality, both of which have been noted and decried in the analytic group's own 
official documents. Pharisees and shopkeepers interest us only because of their 
common essence, which is the source of the difficulties both have with speech, 
particularly when it comes to "talking shop."* 

The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis 2o5 

The fact is that while incommunicability of motives may sustain a "grand 
master," it does not go hand in hand with true mastery — at least not with the 
mastery teaching requires. This was realized in the past when, in order to sus- 
tain one 's preeminence, it was necessary, for form's sake, to give at least one 

This is why the attachment to traditional technique — which is unfailingly 
reaffirmed by the same camp — after a consideration of the results of the tests 
carried out in the frontier fields enumerated above, is not unequivocal; the 
equivocation can be gauged on the basis of the substitution of the term "clas- 
sic" for "orthodox" that is used to qualify it. One remains true to propriety 
because one has nothing to say about the doctrine itself. 

For my part, I would assert that the technique cannot be understood, nor 
therefore correctly applied, if one misunderstands the concepts on which it is 
based. My task shall be to demonstrate that these concepts take on their full 
meaning only when oriented in a field of language and ordered in relation to 
the function of speech. 

A point regarding which I should note that in order to handle any Freudian 
concept, reading Freud cannot be considered superfluous, even for those con- 
cepts that go by the same name as everyday notions. This is demonstrated, 
as I am reminded by the season, by the misadventure of Freud's theory of the 
instincts when revised by an author somewhat less than alert to what Freud 
explicitly stated to be its mythical content. Obviously, the author could 
hardly be aware of it, since he approaches the theory through Marie Bona- 
parte 's work, which he repeatedly cites as if it were equivalent to Freud's 
text — without the reader being in any way alerted to the fact — relying per- 247 

haps, not without reason, on the reader's good taste not to confuse the two, 
but proving nonetheless that he hasn't the slightest inkling of the secondary 
text's true level. The upshot being that — moving from reductions to deduc- 
tions and from inductions to hypotheses — the author, by way of the strict 
tautology of his false premises, comes to the conclusion that the instincts in 
question are reducible to the reflex arc. Like the classic image of the pile of 
plates — whose collapse leaves nothing in the hands of the comedian but two 
ill-matched fragments — the complex construction that moves from the dis- 
covery of the migrations of the libido in the erogenous zones to the metapsy- 
chological passage from a generalized pleasure principle to the death instinct 
becomes the binomial of a passive erotic instinct, modeled on the activity of 
the lice seekers so dear to the poet, and a destructive instinct, identified sim- 
ply with motor functioning. A result that merits an honorable mention for 
the art, intentional or otherwise, of taking the consequences of a misunder- 
standing to their most rigorous conclusions. 

206 Ecrits 

/. Empty Speech and Full Speech in the Psychoanalytic 
Realisation of the Subject 

"Put true and stable speech into my mouth and make of me a cautious tongue" 
— The Internal Consolation, Chapter XLV: That one should not believe 
everyone and of slight stumbling over words. 

Cause toujours. 

— Motto of "causalist" thought 

Whether it wishes to be an agent of healing, training, or sounding the depths, 
psychoanalysis has but one medium: the patient's speech. The obviousness of 
this fact is no excuse for ignoring it. Now all speech calls for a response. 

I will show that there is no speech without a response, even if speech meets 
only with silence, provided it has an auditor, and this is the heart of its func- 
tion in analysis. 

But if the psychoanalyst is not aware that this is how speech functions, he 
248 will experience its call [appel] all the more strongly; and if emptiness is the 

first thing to make itself heard in analysis, he will feel it in himself and he will 
seek a reality beyond speech to fill the emptiness. 

This leads the analyst to analyze the subject's behavior in order to find in 
it what the subject is not saying. Yet for him to get the subject to admit to the 
latter, he obviously has to talk about it. He thus speaks now, but his speech has 
become suspicious because it is merely a response to the failure of his silence, 
when faced with the perceived echo of his own nothingness. 

But what, in fact, was the appeal the subject was making beyond the empti- 
ness of his words [dire]? It was an appeal to truth at its very core, through 
which the calls of humbler needs vacillate. But first and from the outset it was 
the call of emptiness itself, in the ambiguous gap of an attempted seduction of 
the other by means in which the subject manifests indulgence, and on which 
he stakes the monument of his narcissism. 

"That's introspection all right!" exclaims the bombastic, smug fellow who 
knows its dangers only too well. He is certainly not the last, he admits, to have 
tasted its charms, even if he has exhausted its benefits. Too bad he has no more 
time to waste. For you would hear some fine profundities from him were he 
to come and lie on your couch! 

It is strange that analysts who encounter this sort of person early on in their 
experience still consider introspection to be of importance in psychoanalysis. 
For the minute you accept his wager, all the fine things he thought he had been 
saving up slip his mind. If he forces himself to recount a few, they don't amount 

The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis 207 

to much; but others come to him so unexpectedly that they strike him as idi- 
otic and silence him for quite a while. That's what usually happens. 3 

He then grasps the difference between the mirage of the monologue whose 
accommodating fancies once animated his bombast, and the forced labor of a 
discourse that leaves one no way out, on which psychologists (not without 
humor) and therapists (not without cunning) have bestowed the name "free 

For it really is work — so much so that some have said it requires an appren- 
ticeship, and have even considered this apprenticeship to constitute its true 
formative value. But if viewed in this way, what does it train but a skilled 

Then what of this work? Let us examine its conditions and fruit in the hope 249 

of shedding more light on its aim and benefits. 

The aptness of the German word Durcharbeiten — equivalent to the Eng- 
lish "working through"* — has been recognized in passing. It has been the 
despair of French translators, despite what the immortal words of a master of 
French style offered them by way of an exhaustive exercise: "Cent fois sur le 
metier, remettez . . ." — but how does the work [/ ouvrage] progress here? 

The theory reminds us of the triad: frustration, aggressiveness, regression. 
This explanation seems so comprehensible that it may well spare us the effort 
to comprehend. Intuition is prompt, but we should be all the more suspicious 
of something obvious when it has become a received idea. Should analysis 
ever expose its weakness, it would be advisable not to rest content with 
recourse to "affectivity." This taboo-word of dialectical incapacity will, along 
with the verb "to intellectualize" (whose pejorative acceptation makes this inca- 
pacity meritorious), remain, in the history of the language, the stigmata of our 
obtuseness regarding the subject. 4 

Let us ask ourselves instead where this frustration comes from. Is it from 
the analyst's silence? Responding to the subject's empty speech — even and 
especially in an approving manner — often proves, by its effects, to be far more 
frustrating than silence. Isn't it, rather, a frustration that is inherent in the sub- 
ject's very discourse? Doesn't the subject become involved here in an ever 
greater dispossession of himself as a being, concerning which — by dint of sin- 
cere portraits which leave the idea of his being no less incoherent, of rectifi- 
cations that do not succeed in isolating its essence, of stays and defenses that 
do not prevent his statue from tottering, of narcissistic embraces that become 
like a puff of air in animating it — he ends up recognizing that this being has 
never been anything more than his own construction [oeuvre] in the imaginary 
and that this construction undercuts all certainty in him? For in the work he 

208 Ecrits 

does to reconstruct it for another, he encounters anew the fundamental alien- 
ation that made him construct it like another, and that has always destined it to 
be taken away from him by another. 5 

This ego,* whose strength our theorists now define by its capacity to bear 

250 frustration, is frustration in its very essence. 6 Not frustration of one of the sub- 
ject's desires, but frustration of an object in which his desire is alienated; and 
the more developed this object becomes, the more profoundly the subject 
becomes alienated from his jouissance. It is thus a frustration at one remove, 
a frustration that the subject — even were he to reduce its form in his discourse 
to the passivating image by which the subject makes himself an object by dis- 
playing himself before the mirror — could not be satisfied with, since even if 
he achieved the most perfect resemblance to that image, it would still be the 
other's jouissance that he would have gotten recognized there. Which is why 
there is no adequate response to this discourse, for the subject regards as con- 
temptuous [mepris] any speech that buys into his mistake [meprise]. 

The subject's aggressiveness here has nothing to do with animals' aggres- 
siveness when their desires are frustrated. This explanation, which most seem 
happy with, masks another that is less agreeable to each and every one of us: 
the aggressiveness of a slave who responds to being frustrated in his labor with 
a death wish. 

Thus we can see how this aggressiveness may respond to any intervention 
which, by exposing the imaginary intentions of the subject's discourse, dis- 
mantles the object the subject has constructed to satisfy them. This is, in effect, 
what is referred to as the analysis of resistances, and we can immediately see 
the danger that lies therein. It is already indicated by the existence of the naive 
analyst who has never seen any manifestations of aggressiveness except for 
the aggressive signification of his subjects' fantasies. 7 

251 He is the same one who, not hesitating to plead for a "causalist" analysis 
that would aim to transform the subject in the present by learned explana- 
tions of his past, betrays well enough, even in his very tone, the anxiety he 
wishes to spare himself — the anxiety of having to think that his patient's 
freedom may depend on that of his own intervention. If the expedient he 
seizes upon is beneficial at some point to the subject, it is no more beneficial 
than a stimulating joke and will not detain me any longer. 

Let us focus instead on the hie et nunc [here and now] to which some ana- 
lysts feel we should confine the handling of the analysis. It may indeed be 
useful, provided the analyst does not detach the imaginary intention he 
uncovers in it from the symbolic relation in which it is expressed. Nothing 
must be read into it concerning the subject's ego that cannot be assumed 
anew by him in the form of the "/," that is, in the first person. 

The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis 209 

"I was this only in order to become what I can be": if this were not the con- 
stant culmination of the subject's assumption [assomption] of his own mirages, 
where could we find progress here? 

Thus the analyst cannot without danger track down the subject in the inti- 
macy of his gestures, or even in that of his stationary state, unless he reinte- 
grates them as silent parties into the subject's narcissistic discourse — and this 
has been very clearly noted, even by young practitioners. 

The danger here is not of a negative reaction on the subject's part, but rather 
of his being captured in an objectification — no less imaginary than before — of 
his stationary state, indeed, of his statue, in a renewed status of his alienation. 

The analyst's art must, on the contrary, involve suspending the subject's 
certainties until their final mirages have been consumed. And it is in the sub- 
ject's discourse that their dissolution must be punctuated. 

Indeed, however empty his discourse may seem, it is so only if taken at face 
value — the value that justifies Mallarme's remark, in which he compares the 
common use of language to the exchange of a coin whose obverse and reverse 
no longer bear but eroded faces, and which people pass from hand to hand "in 
silence." This metaphor suffices to remind us that speech, even when almost 
completely worn out, retains its value as a tessera. 

Even if it communicates nothing, discourse represents the existence of com- 
munication; even if it denies the obvious, it affirms that speech constitutes truth; 
even if it is destined to deceive, it relies on faith in testimony. 252 

Thus the psychoanalyst knows better than anyone else that the point is to 
figure out [entendre] to which "part" of this discourse the significant term is 
relegated, and this is how he proceeds in the best of cases: he takes the descrip- 
tion of an everyday event as a fable addressed as a word to the wise, a long 
prosopopeia as a direct interjection, and, contrariwise, a simple slip of the 
tongue as a highly complex statement, and even the rest of a silence as the 
whole lyrical development it stands in for. 

It is, therefore, a propitious punctuation that gives meaning to the subject's 
discourse. This is why the ending of the session — which current technique 
makes into an interruption that is determined purely by the clock and, as such, 
takes no account of the thread of the subject's discourse — plays the part of a 
scansion which has the full value of an intervention by the analyst that is 
designed to precipitate concluding moments. Thus we must free the ending 
from its routine framework and employ it for all the useful aims of analytic 

This is how regression can occur, regression being but the bringing into 
the present in the subject's discourse of the fantasmatic relations discharged 
by an ego* at each stage in the decomposition of its structure. After all, the 

2io Ecrits 

regression is not real; even in language it manifests itself only by inflections, 
turns of phrase, and "stumblings so slight" that even in the extreme case they 
cannot go beyond the artifice of "baby talk" engaged in by adults. Imputing 
to regression the reality of a current relation to the object amounts to pro- 
jecting the subject into an alienating illusion that merely echoes one of the 
analyst's own alibis. 

This is why nothing could be more misleading for the analyst than to seek 
to guide himself by some supposed "contact" he experiences with the subject's 
reality. This vacuous buzzword of intuitionist and even phenomenological psy- 
chology has become extended in contemporary usage in a way that is thor- 
oughly symptomatic of the ever scarcer effects of speech in the present social 
context. But its obsessive value becomes flagrant when it is recommended in 
a relationship which, according to its very rules, excludes all real contact. 

Young analysts, who might nevertheless allow themselves to be impressed 
by the impenetrable gifts such recourse implies, will find no better way of 
253 dispelling their illusions than to consider the success of the supervision they 

themselves receive. The very possibility of that supervision would become 
problematic from the perspective of contact with the patient's reality [reel]. 
On the contrary, the supervisor manifests a second sight — that's the word 
for it! — which makes the experience at least as instructive for him as for his 
supervisee. And the less the supervisee demonstrates such gifts — which are 
considered by some to be all the more incommunicable the bigger the to-do 
they themselves make about their secrets regarding technique — the truer this 
almost becomes. 

The reason for this enigma is that the supervisee serves as a filter, or even 
as a refractor, of the subject's discourse, and in this way a ready-made stere- 
ography is presented to the supervisor, bringing out from the start the three 
or four registers on which the musical score constituted by the subject's dis- 
course can be read. 

If the supervisee could be put by the supervisor into a subjective position 
different from that implied by the sinister term controle (advantageously 
replaced, but only in English, by "supervision"*), the greatest benefit he would 
derive from this exercise would be to learn to put himself in the position of that 
second subjectivity into which the situation automatically puts the supervisor. 

There he would find the authentic path by which to reach what is expressed 
only very approximately by the classic formulation of the analyst's diffuse, or 
even absentminded, attention. For it is essential to know what that attention 
aims at; as all my work shows, it certainly does not aim at an object beyond 
the subject's speech the way it does for certain analysts who force themselves 
to never lose sight of that object. If this had to be the path of analysis, then it 

The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis 211 

would surely have recourse to other means — otherwise it would provide the 
only example of a method that forbade itself the means to its own ends. 

The only object that is within the analyst's reach is the imaginary relation 
that links him to the subject qua ego; and although he cannot eliminate it, he 
can use it to adjust the receptivity of his ears, which is, according to both phys- 
iology and the Gospels, the normal use made of them: having ears in order not 
to hear [entendre]^ in other words, in order to detect what is to be understood 
[entendu]. For he has no other ears, no third or fourth ear designed for what 
some have tried to describe as a direct transaudition of the unconscious by the 
unconscious. I shall say what we are to make of this supposed mode of com- 254 

munication later. 

I have, thus far, approached the function of speech in analysis from its least 
rewarding angle, that of "empty" speech in which the subject seems to speak 
in vain about someone who — even if he were such a dead ringer for him that 
you might confuse them — will never join him in the assumption of his desire. 
I have pointed out the source of the growing devaluation of speech in both 
analytic theory and technique, and have had to lift incrementally, as if a heavy 
mill wheel had fallen on speech, what can only serve as the sails that drive the 
movement of analysis: namely, individual psychophysiological factors that are, 
in reality, excluded from its dialectic. To regard the goal of psychoanalysis as 
to modify their characteristic inertia is to condemn oneself to the fiction of 
movement, with which a certain trend in psychoanalytic technique seems to 
be satisfied. 

If we turn now to the other end of the spectrum of psychoanalytic experience — 
its history, casuistry, and treatment process — we shall learn to oppose the value 
of anamnesis as the index and mainspring of therapeutic progress to the analy- 
sis of the hie etnunc, hysterical inter subjectivity to obsessive intrasubjectivity, 
and symbolic interpretation to the analysis of resistance. The realization of 
full speech begins here. 

Let us examine the relation it constitutes. 

Let us recall that, shortly after its birth, the method introduced by Breuer 
and Freud was baptized the "talking cure"* by one of Breuer's patients, Anna 
0. Let us keep in mind that it was the experience inaugurated with this hys- 
teric that led them to the discovery of the pathogenic event dubbed traumatic. 

If this event was recognized as the cause of the symptom, it was because 
putting the event into words (in the patient's "stories"*) led to the removal of 
the symptom. Here the term "prise de conscience " (conscious realization), bor- 
rowed from the psychological theory that was immediately constructed to 
explain the fact, retains a prestige that merits the healthy distrust I believe is 

212 Ecrits 

called for when it comes to explanations that parade as self-evident. The psy- 
chological prejudices of Freud 's day were opposed to seeing in verbalization 

255 as such any other reality than its flatus vocis. The fact remains that, in the hyp- 
notic state, verbalization is dissociated from conscious realization, and this 
alone is enough to require a revision of such a conception of its effects. 

But why don't the valiant defenders of the behaviorist Aufhebung set an 
example here, making their point that they do not need to know whether the 
subject remembers anything whatsoever? She simply recounts the event. For 
my part, I would say that she verbalizes it, or — to further exploit this term 
whose resonances in French call to mind a Pandora figure other than the one 
with the box (in which the term should probably be locked up) — that she forces 
the event into the Word [le verbe\ or, more precisely, into the epos by which 
she relates in the present the origins of her person. And she does this in a lan- 
guage that allows her discourse to be understood by her contemporaries and 
that also presupposes their present discourse. Thus it happens that the recita- 
tion of the epos may include a discourse of earlier days in its own archaic, even 
foreign tongue, or may even be carried out in the present with all the vivac- 
ity of an actor; but it is like indirect speech, isolated in quotation marks in the 
thread of the narrative, and, if the speech is performed, it is on a stage imply- 
ing the presence not only of a chorus, but of spectators as well. 

Hypnotic remembering is, no doubt, a reproduction of the past, but it is above 
all a spoken representation and, as such, implies all sorts of presences. It stands 
in the same relation to the remembering while awake of what in analysis is curi- 
ously called "the material," as drama — in which the original myths of the City 
State are produced before its assembly of citizens — stands in relation to his- 
tory, which may well be made up of materials, but in which a nation today learns 
to read the symbols of a destiny on the march. In Heideggerian language one 
could say that both types of remembering constitute the subject as gewesend — 
that is, as being the one who has thus been. But in the internal unity of this tem- 
poralization, entities [/ 'e'tant] mark the convergence of the having-beens [des 
ayant ete\ In other words, if other encounters are assumed to have occurred 
since any one of these moments having been, another entity would have issued 
from it that would cause him to have been altogether differently. 

The reason for the ambiguity of hysterical revelation of the past is not so 
much the vacillation of its content between the imaginary and reality \reel\ 
for it is situated in both. Nor is it the fact that it is made up of lies. It is that it 

256 presents us with the birth of truth in speech, and thereby brings us up against 
the reality of what is neither true nor false. At least, that is the most disturb- 
ing aspect of the problem. 

For it is present speech that bears witness to the truth of this revelation in 

The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis 213 

current reality and grounds it in the name of this reality. Now only speech 
bears witness in this reality to that portion of the powers of the past that has 
been thrust aside at each crossroads where an event has chosen. 

This is why the condition of continuity in the anamnesis, by which Freud 
measures the completeness of the cure, has nothing to do with the Bergson- 
ian myth of a restoration of duration in which the authenticity of each instant 
would be destroyed if it did not recapitulate the modulation of all the preced- 
ing instants. To Freud 's mind, it is not a question of biological memory, nor 
of its intuitionist mystification, nor of the paramnesia of the symptom, but of 
remembering, that is, of history; he rests the scales — in which conjectures about 
the past make promises about the future oscillate — on the knife-edge of 
chronological certainties alone. Let's be categorical: in psychoanalytic anam- 
nesis, what is at stake is not reality, but truth, because the effect of full speech 
is to reorder past contingencies by conferring on them the sense of necessities 
to come, such as they are constituted by the scant freedom through which the 
subject makes them present. 

The meanders of the research pursued by Freud in his account of the case 
of the Wolf Man confirm these remarks by deriving their full meaning from 

Freud demands a total objectification of proof when it comes to dating the 
primal scene, but he simply presupposes all the resubjectivizations of the event 
that seem necessary to him to explain its effects at each turning point at which 
the subject restructures himself — that is, as many restructurings of the event 
as take place, as he puts it, nachtraglich^ after the fact. 8 What's more, with an 
audacity bordering on impudence, he declares that he considers it legitimate, 
in analyzing the processes, to elide the time intervals during which the event 257 

remains latent in the subject. 9 That is to say, he annuls the times for understanding 
in favor of the moments of concluding which precipitate the subject's medita- 
tion toward deciding the meaning to be attached to the early event. 

Let it be noted that time for understanding and moment of concluding are 
functions I have defined in a purely logical theorem, 10 and are familiar to my 
students as having proven extremely helpful in the dialectical analysis 
through which I guide them in the process of a psychoanalysis. 

This assumption by the subject of his history, insofar as it is constituted by 
speech addressed to another, is clearly the basis of the new method Freud called 
psychoanalysis, not in 1904 — as was taught until recently by an authority who, 
when he finally threw off the cloak of prudent silence, appeared on that day 
to know nothing of Freud except the titles of his works — but in 1895. 11 

In this analysis of the meaning of his method, I do not deny, any more than 
Freud himself did, the psychophysiological discontinuity manifested by the 

214 Ecrits 

states in which hysterical symptoms appear, nor do I deny that these symp- 
toms may be treated by methods — hypnosis or even narcosis — that repro- 
duce the discontinuity of these states. It is simply that I repudiate any reliance 
on these states — as expressly as Freud forbade himself recourse to them after 
a certain moment in time — to either explain symptoms or cure them. 

For if the originality of the method derives from the means it foregoes, it 
is because the means that it reserves for itself suffice to constitute a domain 
whose limits define the relativity of its operations. 

Its means are those of speech, insofar as speech confers a meaning on the 
functions of the individual; its domain is that of concrete discourse qua field 
of the subject's transindividual reality; and its operations are those of history, 
insofar as history constitutes the emergence of truth in reality [reel]. 

First, in fact, when a subject begins an analysis, he accepts a position that 
258 is more constitutive in itself than all the orders by which he allows himself to 

be more or less taken in — the position of interlocution — and I see no disad- 
vantage in the fact that this remark may leave the listener dumbfounded [inter- 
loque]. For I shall take this opportunity to stress that the subject's act of 
addressing [allocution] brings with it an addressee [allocutaire] n — in other 
words, that the speaker [locuteur] 13 is constituted in it as intersubjectivity. 

Second, it is on the basis of this interlocution, insofar as it includes the inter- 
locutor's response, that it becomes clear to us why Freud requires restoration 
of continuity in the subject's motivations. An operational examination of this 
objective shows us, in effect, that it can only be satisfied in the intersubjective 
continuity of the discourse in which the subject's history is constituted. 

Thus, while the subject may vaticinate about his history under the influ- 
ence of one or other of those drugs that put consciousness to sleep and have 
been christened in our day "truth serums" — where the sureness of the mis- 
nomer betrays the characteristic irony of language — the simple retransmis- 
sion of his own recorded discourse, even if pronounced by his doctor, cannot 
have the same effects as psychoanalytic interlocution because it comes to the 
subject in an alienated form. 

The true basis of the Freudian discovery of the unconscious becomes clear 
in its position as a third term. This may be simply formulated in the follow- 
ing terms: 

The unconscious is that part of concrete discourse qua transindividual, 
which is not at the subject 's disposal in reestablishing the continuity of his con- 
scious discourse. 

This disposes of the paradox presented by the concept of the unconscious 
when it is related to an individual reality. For to reduce this concept to uncon- 
scious tendencies is to resolve the paradox only by avoiding analytic experi- 

The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis 21 5 

ence, which clearly shows that the unconscious is of the same nature as 259 

ideational functions, and even of thought. Freud plainly stressed this when, 
unable to avoid a conjunction of opposing terms in the expression "uncon- 
scious thought," he gave it the necessary support with the invocation: sit venia 
verbo. Thus we obey him by casting the blame, in effect, onto the Word, but 
onto the Word realized in discourse that darts from mouth to mouth, confer- 
ring on the act of the subject who receives its message the meaning that makes 
this act an act of his history and gives it its truth. 

Hence the objection that the notion of unconscious thought is a contradic- 
tion in terms, which is raised by a psychology poorly grounded in its logic, 
collapses when confronted by the very distinctiveness of the psychoanalytic 
domain, insofar as this domain reveals the reality of discourse in its autonomy. 
And the psychoanalyst's eppur si muove! 'has the same impact as Galileo's, which 
is not that of a fact-based experiment but of an experimentum mentis. 

The unconscious is the chapter of my history that is marked by a blank or 
occupied by a lie: it is the censored chapter. But the truth can be refound; most 
often it has already been written elsewhere. Namely, 

• in monuments: this is my body, in other words, the hysterical core of neu- 
rosis in which the hysterical symptom manifests the structure of a language, 
and is deciphered like an inscription which, once recovered, can be 
destroyed without serious loss; 

• in archival documents too: these are my childhood memories, just as 
impenetrable as such documents are when I do not know their provenance; 

• in semantic evolution: this corresponds to the stock of words and accepta- 
tions of my own particular vocabulary, as it does to my style of life and my 

• in traditions, too, and even in the legends which, in a heroicized form, 
convey my history; 

• and, lastly, in its traces that are inevitably preserved in the distortions 
necessitated by the insertion of the adulterated chapter into the chapters 
surrounding it, and whose meaning will be re-established by my exegesis. 

Students who believe that, in order to understand Freud, reading Freud is 260 

preferable to reading Fenichel — and this belief is so rare that I try to foster it 
in my teaching — will realize, once they set about it, that what I have just said 
is hardly original, even in its verve; indeed, I have not used a single metaphor 
that Freud's works do not repeat with the frequency of a leitmotifs revealing 
the very fabric of his work. 

At every instant of their practice from then on, they will more easily grasp 

2i6 Ecrits 

the fact that these metaphors — like negation, whose doubling undoes it — lose 
their metaphorical dimension, and they will recognize that this is so because 
they are operating in metaphor's own realm, metaphor being but a synonym 
for the symbolic displacement brought into play in the symptom. 

After that it will be easier for them to evaluate the imaginary displacement 
that motivates Fenichel's work, by gauging the difference in the solidity and 
efficacy of technique generated by referring to the supposedly organic stages 
of individual development and by searching for the particular events of a sub- 
ject's history. It is precisely the difference that separates authentic historical 
research from the supposed laws of history, of which it can be said that every 
age finds its own philosopher to propagate them according to the values preva- 
lent at the time. 

This is not to say that there is nothing worth keeping in the different mean- 
ings uncovered in the general march of history along the path which runs from 
Bossuet (Jacques-Benigne) to Toynbee (Arnold), and which is punctuated by 
the edifices of Auguste Comte and Karl Marx. Everyone knows, of course, 
that the laws of history are worth as little for directing research into the recent 
past as they are for making any reasonable presumptions about tomorrow's 
events. Besides, they are modest enough to postpone their certainties until the 
day after tomorrow, and not too prudish either to allow for the adjustments 
that permit predictions to be made about what happened yesterday. 

If, therefore, their role in scientific progress is rather slight, their interest 
nevertheless lies elsewhere: in their considerable role as ideals. For it leads us 
to distinguish between what might be called the primary and secondary func- 
tions of historicization. 

For to say of psychoanalysis and of history that, qua sciences, they are both 
261 sciences of the particular, does not mean that the facts they deal with are purely 

accidental or even factitious, or that their ultimate value comes down to the 
brute aspect of trauma. 

Events are engendered in a primal historicization — in other words, history 
is already being made on the stage where it will be played out once it has been 
written down, both in one 's heart of hearts and outside. 

At one moment in time, a certain riot in the Faubourg Saint- Antoine is expe- 
rienced by its actors as a victory or defeat of the Parliament or the Court; at 
another moment, as a victory or defeat of the proletariat or the bourgeoisie. 
And although it is "the common people," to use Cardinal de Retz's expres- 
sion, who always pay the price, it is not at all the same historical event — I mean 
that they do not leave behind the same sort of memory in men's minds. 

This is because, with the disappearance of the reality of the Parliament and 
the Court, the first event will return to its traumatic value, allowing for a pro- 

The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis 21 j 

gressive and authentic effacement, unless its meaning is expressly revived. 
Whereas the memory of the second event will remain very much alive even 
under censorship — just as the amnesia brought on by repression is one of the 
liveliest forms of memory — as long as there are men who enlist their revolt 
in the struggle for the proletariat's political ascension, that is, men for whom 
the keywords of dialectical materialism have meaning. 

Thus it would be going too far to say that I am about to carry these remarks 
over into the field of psychoanalysis, since they are already there, and since 
the clear distinction they establish between two things that were formerly con- 
fused — the technique of deciphering the unconscious and the theory of 
instincts, or even drives — goes without saying. 

What we teach the subject to recognize as his unconscious is his history — 
in other words, we help him complete the current historicization of the facts 
that have already determined a certain number of the historical "turning points" 
in his existence. But if they have played this role, it is already as historical facts, 
that is, as recognized in a certain sense or censored in a certain order. 

Thus, every fixation at a supposed instinctual stage is above all a historical 
stigma: a page of shame that one forgets or undoes, or a page of glory that 262 

obliges. But what is forgotten is recalled in acts, and the undoing of what has 
been done contradicts what is said elsewhere, just as obligation perpetuates in 
symbols the very mirage in which the subject found himself trapped. 

To put it succinctly, the instinctual stages are already organized in subjec- 
tivity when they are being lived. And to put it clearly, the subjectivity of the 
child who registers as victories and defeats the epic of the training of his sphinc- 
ters — enjoying in the process the imaginary sexualization of his cloacal ori- 
fices, turning his excremental expulsions into aggressions, his retentions into 
seductions, and his movements of release into symbols — is not fundamentally 
different from the subjectivity of the psychoanalyst who strives to restore the 
forms of love that he calls "pregenital" in order to understand them. 

In other words, the anal stage is no less purely historical when it is actually 
experienced than when it is reconceptualized, nor is it less purely grounded in 
intersubjectivity. But officially recognizing it as a stage in some supposed 
instinctual maturation immediately leads even the best minds off track, to the 
point of seeing in it the reproduction in ontogenesis of a stage of the animal 
phylum that should be sought in ascaris, even in jellyfish — a speculation which, 
ingenious as it may be when penned by Balint, leads others to the most inco- 
herent musings, or even to the folly that goes looking in protista for the imag- 
inary schema of breaking and entering the body, fear of which is supposed to 
govern feminine sexuality. Why not look for the image of the ego in shrimp, 
under the pretext that both acquire a new shell after every molting? 

2i 8 Ecrits 

In the 1910s and 1920s, a certain Jaworski constructed a very pretty system 
in which the "biological level" could be found right up to the very confines 
of culture, and which actually provided shellfish their historical counterpart 
at some period of the late Middle Ages, if I remember rightly, due to a flour- 
ishing of armor in both; indeed, it left no animal form without some human 
correspondent, excepting neither mollusks nor vermin. 

Analogy is not the same thing as metaphor, and the use that the philoso- 
phers of nature have made of it requires the genius of Goethe, but even his 
example is not encouraging. No course is more repugnant to the spirit of our 

263 discipline, and it was by deliberately avoiding analogy that Freud opened up 
the path appropriate to the interpretation of dreams and, along with it, to the 
notion of analytic symbolism. Analytic symbolism, I insist, is strictly opposed 
to analogical thinking — a dubious tradition that still leads some people, even 
in our own ranks, to consider the latter to go hand in hand with the former. 

This is why excessive excursions into the ridiculous must be used for their 
eye-opening value, since, by opening our eyes to the absurdity of a theory, they 
direct our attention back to dangers that have nothing theoretical about them. 

This mythology of instinctual maturation, built out of bits and pieces 
selected from Freud 's work, actually engenders intellectual problems whose 
vapor, condensing into nebulous ideals, in return irrigates the original myth 
with its showers. The best writers spill their ink positing equations that sat- 
isfy the requirements of that mysterious "genital love"* (there are notions 
whose strangeness is better placed in the parenthesis of a borrowed term, and 
they initial their attempt with an admission of anon liquet). No one, however, 
appears to be shaken up by the malaise this results in; and people see it, rather, 
as a reason to encourage all the Munchhausens of psychoanalytic normaliza- 
tion to raise themselves up by the hair on their head in the hope of attaining 
the paradise of full realization of the genital object, indeed of the object itself. 

The fact that we analysts are in a good position to know the power of words 
is no reason to emphasize the insoluble character of their power, or to "bind 
heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders," as Christ's 
malediction is expressed to the Pharisees in the text of Saint Matthew. 

The poverty of the terms within which we try to contain a subjective prob- 
lem may thus leave a great deal to be desired to particularly exacting minds, 
should they compare these terms to those that structured, in their very con- 

264 fusion, the ancient quarrels over Nature and Grace. 14 This poverty may thus 
leave them apprehensive as to the quality of the psychological and sociologi- 
cal effects they can expect from the use of these terms. And it is to be hoped 
that a better appreciation of the functions of the Logos will dissipate the mys- 
teries of our fantastic charismata. 

The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis 219 

To confine ourselves to a more lucid tradition, perhaps we can understand 
the celebrated maxim by La Rochefoucauld — "There are people who would 
never have fallen in love but for hearing love discussed" — not in the roman- 
tic sense of a thoroughly imaginary "realization" of love that would make this 
remark into a bitter objection, but as an authentic recognition of what love 
owes to the symbol and of what speech brings with it by way of love. 

In any case, one need but consult Freud's work to realize to what a sec- 
ondary and hypothetical rank he relegates the theory of the instincts. The the- 
ory cannot in his eyes stand up for a single instant to the least important 
particular fact of a history, he insists, and the genital narcissism he invokes when 
summarizing the case of the Wolf Man clearly shows how much he scorns the 
constituted order of the libidinal stages. Moreover, he evokes instinctual con- 
flict there only to immediately distance himself from it and recognize in the 
symbolic isolation of the "I am not castrated," in which the subject asserts him- 
self, the compulsive form to which his heterosexual object choice remains riv- 
eted, in opposition to the effect of homosexualizing capture undergone by the 
ego when it was brought back to the imaginary matrix of the primal scene. 
This is, in truth, the subjective conflict — in which it is only a question of the 
vicissitudes of subjectivity, so much so that the "I" wins and loses against the 
"ego" at the whim of religious catechization or indoctrinating Aufklarung — 
a conflict whose effects Freud brought the subject to realize through his help 
before explaining them to us in the dialectic of the Oedipus complex. 

It is in the analysis of such a case that one clearly sees that the realization 
of perfect love is the fruit not of nature but of grace — that is, the fruit of an 
inter subjective agreement imposing its harmony on the rent nature on which 
it is based. 

"But what, then, is this subject that you keep drumming into our ears?" 
some impatient auditor finally exclaims. "Haven't we already learned the les- 
son from Monsieur de La Palice that everything experienced by the individ- 
ual is subjective?" 

Naive mouth — whose eulogy I shall spend my final days preparing — open 265 

up again to hear me. No need to close your eyes. The subject goes far beyond 
what is experienced "subjectively" by the individual; he goes exactly as far as 
the truth he is able to attain — which will perhaps come out of the mouth you 
have already closed again. Yes, this truth of his history is not all contained in 
his script, and yet the place is marked there in the painful conflicts he experi- 
ences because he knows only his own lines, and even in the pages whose dis- 
array gives him little comfort. 

The fact that the subject's unconscious is the other's discourse appears more 
clearly than anywhere else in tfye studies Freud devoted to what he called telepa- 

220 Ecrits 

thy, as it is manifested in the context of an analytic experience. This is the coin- 
cidence between the subject's remarks and facts he cannot have known about, 
but which are still at work in the connections to another analysis in which the 
analyst is an interlocutor — a coincidence which is, moreover, most often con- 
stituted by an entirely verbal, even homonymic, convergence, or which, if it 
includes an act, involves an "acting out"* by one of the analyst's other patients 
or by the patient's child who is also in analysis. It is a case of resonance in the 
communicating networks of discourse, an exhaustive study of which would 
shed light on similar facts of everyday life. 

The omnipresence of human discourse will perhaps one day be embraced 
under the open sky of an omnicommunication of its text. This is not to say 
that human discourse will be any more in tune with it than it is now. But this 
is the field that our experience polarizes in a relation that is only apparently a 
two-person relation, for any positioning of its structure in merely dyadic terms 
is as inadequate to it in theory as it is damaging to its technique. 

266 //. Symbol and Language as Structure and Limit of the Psychoanalytic Field 

Trjv apxrjv o xi Kcti XaXca v\iiv 
— Gospel according to Saint John, 8.25 

Do crossword puzzles. 

— Advice to a young psychoanalyst 

To take up the thread of my argument again, let me repeat that it is by a reduc- 
tion of a particular subject's history that psychoanalysis touches on relational 
gestalts, which analysis extrapolates into regular development; but that nei- 
ther genetic psychology nor differential psychology, on both of which analy- 
sis may shed light, is within its scope, because both require experimental and 
observational conditions that are related to those of analysis in name alone. 

To go even further: What separates out from common experience (which 
is confused with sense experience only by professional thinkers) as psychol- 
ogy in its crudest form — namely, the wonder that wells up, during some 
momentary suspension of daily cares, at what pairs off human beings in a dis- 
parity that goes beyond that of the grotesques of Leonardo or Goya, or sur- 
prise at the resistance of the thickness characteristic of a person's skin to the 
caress of a hand still moved by the thrill of discovery without yet being blunted 
by desire — this, one might say, is abolished in an experience that is averse to 
such caprices and recalcitrant to such mysteries. 

A psychoanalysis normally proceeds to its end without revealing to us very 
much of what is particular to our patient as regards his sensitivity to blows or 

The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis 221 

colors, how quickly he grasps things with his hands or which parts of his body 
are sensitive, or his ability to retain things or invent, not to mention the vivac- 
ity of his tastes. 

This paradox is only an apparent one and is not due to any personal fail- 
ing; if it can be justified by the negative conditions of analytic experience, it 
simply presses us a little harder to examine that experience in terms of what is 
positive in it. 

For this paradox is not resolved by the efforts of certain people who — like 267 

the philosophers Plato mocked for being so driven by their appetite for real- 
ity [reel] that they went about embracing trees — go so far as to take every 
episode in which this reality, that slips away, rears its head for the lived reac- 
tion of which they prove so fond. For these are the very people who, making 
their objective what lies beyond language, react to analysis' "Don't touch" 
rule by a sort of obsession. If they keep going in that direction, I dare say the 
last word in transference reaction will be sniffing each other. I am not exag- 
gerating in the least: nowadays, a young analyst-in-training, after two or three 
years of fruitless analysis, can actually hail the long-awaited advent of the 
object-relation in being smelled by his subject, and can reap as a result of it 
the dignus est intrare of our votes, the guarantors of his abilities. 

If psychoanalysis can become a science (for it is not yet one) and if it is not 
to degenerate in its technique (and perhaps this has already happened), we 
must rediscover the meaning of its experience. 

To this end, we can do no better than return to Freud 's work. Claiming to 
be an expert practitioner does not give an analyst the right to challenge Freud 
III, because he does not understand him, in the name of a Freud II whom he 
thinks he understands. And his very ignorance of Freud I is no excuse for con- 
sidering the five great psychoanalyses as a series of case studies as badly cho- 
sen as they are written up, however marvelous he thinks it that the grain of 
truth hidden within them managed to escape. 15 

We must thus take up Freud 's work again starting with the Traumdeutung 
[The Interpretation of Dreams] to remind ourselves that a dream has the struc- 
ture of a sentence or, rather, to keep to the letter of the work, of a rebus — that 
is, of a form of writing, of which children's dreams are supposed to represent 
the primordial ideography, and which reproduces, in adults' dreams, the 
simultaneously phonetic and symbolic use of signifying elements found in 
the hieroglyphs of ancient Egypt and in the characters still used in China. 

But even this is no more than the deciphering of the instrument. What is 
important is the version of the text, and that, Freud tells us, is given in the 268 

telling of the dream — that is, in its rhetoric. Ellipsis and pleonasm, hyperba- 
ton or syllepsis, regression, repetition, apposition — these are the syntactical 

222 Ecrits 

displacements; metaphor, catachresis, antonomasia, allegory, metonymy, and 
synecdoche — these are the semantic condensations; Freud teaches us to read 
in them the intentions — whether ostentatious or demonstrative, dissimulat- 
ing or persuasive, retaliatory or seductive — with which the subject modulates 
his oneiric discourse. 

We know that he laid it down as a rule that the expression of a desire must 
always be sought in a dream. But let us be sure we understand what he meant 
by this. If Freud accepts, as the reason for a dream that seems to run counter 
to his thesis, the very desire to contradict him on the part of a subject whom 
he had tried to convince of his theory, 16 how could he fail to accept the same 
reason for himself when the law he arrived at is supposed to have come to him 
from other people? 

In short, nowhere does it appear more clearly that man's desire finds its mean- 
ing in the other's desire, not so much because the other holds the keys to the 
desired object, as because his first object(ive) is to be recognized by the other. 

Indeed, we all know from experience that from the moment an analysis 
becomes engaged in the path of transference — and this is what indicates to us 
that it has become so engaged — each of the patient's dreams is to be inter- 
preted as a provocation, a latent avowal or diversion, by its relation to the ana- 
lytic discourse, and that as the analysis progresses, his dreams become ever 
more reduced to the function of elements in the dialogue taking place in the 

In the case of the psychopathology of everyday life, another field conse- 
crated by another text by Freud, it is clear that every bungled action is a suc- 
cessful, even "well phrased," discourse, and that in slips of the tongue it is the 
gag that turns against speech, and from just the right quadrant for its word to 
the wise to be sufficient. 

But let us go straight to the part of the book where Freud deals with chance 
and the beliefs it gives rise to, and especially to the facts regarding which he 
269 applies himself to showing the subjective efficacy of associations to numbers 

that are left to the fate of an unmotivated choice, or even of a random selec- 
tion. Nowhere do the dominant structures of the psychoanalytic field reveal 
themselves better than in such a success. Freud's appeal, in passing, to 
unknown thought processes is nothing more in this case than his last-ditch 
excuse for the total confidence he placed in symbols, a confidence that wavers 
as the result of being fulfilled beyond his wildest dreams. 

If, for a symptom, whether neurotic or not, to be considered to come under 
psychoanalytic psychopathology, Freud insists on the minimum of overde- 
termination constituted by a double meaning — symbol of a defunct conflict 
beyond its function in a no less symbolic present conflict — and if he teaches us 

The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis 223 

to follow the ascending ramification of the symbolic lineage in the text of the 
patient's free associations, in order to detect the nodal points [noeucts] of its 
structure at the places where its verbal forms intersect, then it is already quite 
clear that symptoms can be entirely resolved in an analysis of language, 
because a symptom is itself structured like a language: a symptom is language 
from which speech must be delivered. 

To those who have not studied the nature of language in any depth, the 
experience of numerical association will immediately show what must be 
grasped here — namely, the combinatory power that orders its equivoca- 
tions — and they will recognize in this the very mainspring of the unconscious. 

Indeed, if — from the numbers obtained by breaking up the series of digits 
[chiffres] in the chosen number, from their combination by all the operations 
of arithmetic, and even from the repeated division of the original number by 
one of the numbers split off from it — the resulting numbers 17 prove symbolic 
among all the numbers in the subject's own history, it is because they were 
already latent in the initial choice. And thus if the idea that these very num- 
bers [chiffres] determined the subject's fate is refuted as superstitious, we must 
nevertheless admit that everything analysis reveals to the subject as his uncon- 
scious lies in the existing order of their combinations — that is, in the concrete 
language they represent. 

We shall see that philologists and ethnographers reveal enough to us about 270 

the combinatory sureness found in the completely unconscious systems with 
which they deal for them to find nothing surprising in the proposition I am 
putting forward here. 

But should anyone still have reservations about what I am saying, I would 
appeal once more to the testimony of the man who, having discovered the uncon- 
scious, warrants credence when he designates its place; he will not fail us. 

For, however little interest has been taken in it — and for good reason — 
Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious remains the most unchallengeable 
of his works because it is the most transparent; in it, the effect of the uncon- 
scious is demonstrated in all its subtlety. And the visage it reveals to us is that 
of wit [I'esprit] in the ambiguity conferred on it by language, where the other 
face of its regalian power is the witticism [pointe], by which the whole of its 
order is annihilated in an instant — the witticism, indeed, in which language 's 
creative activity unveils its absolute gratuitousness, in which its domination 
of reality [reel] is expressed in the challenge of nonmeaning, and in which the 
humor, in the malicious grace of the free spirit [esprit libre], symbolizes a truth 
that does not say its last word. 

We must follow Freud, along the book's admirably compelling detours, on 
the walk on which he leads us in this chosen garden of bitterest love. 

224 Ecrits 

Here everything is substantial, everything is a real gem. The mind [esprit] 
that lives as an exile in the creation whose invisible support he is, knows that 
he is at every instant the master capable of annihilating it. No matter how dis- 
dained the forms of this hidden royalty — haughty or perfidious, dandy-like 
or debonair — Freud can make their secret luster shine. Stories of the marriage- 
broker on his rounds in the ghettos of Moravia — that derided Eros figure, like 
him born of penury and pain — discreetly guiding the avidity of his ill-man- 
nered client, and suddenly ridiculing him with the illuminating nonsense of 
his reply. "He who lets the truth escape like that," comments Freud, "is in real- 
ity happy to throw off the mask." 

It is truth, in fact, that throws off the mask in coming out of his mouth, but 
only so that the joke might take on another and more deceptive mask: the 
sophistry that is merely a stratagem, the logic that is merely a lure, even com- 
edy that tends merely to dazzle. The joke is always about something else. "A 
joke [esprit] in fact entails such a subjective conditionality [...]: a joke is only 
271 what I accept as such," continues Freud, who knows what he is talking about. 

Nowhere is the individual's intent more evidently surpassed by the sub- 
ject's find — nowhere is the distinction I make between the individual and the 
subject so palpable — since not only must there have been something foreign 
to me in my find for me to take pleasure in it, but some of it must remain for- 
eign for this find to hit home. This takes on its importance due to the neces- 
sity, so clearly indicated by Freud, of a joke's third person, who is always 
presupposed, and to the fact that a joke does not lose its power when told in 
the form of indirect speech. In short, this points, in the Other's locus, to the 
amboceptor that is illuminated by the artifice of the joke [mot] erupting in its 
supreme alacrity. 

There is only one reason for a joke to fall flat: the platitude of any expla- 
nation given of its truth. 

Now this relates directly to our problem. The current disdain for studies 
on the language of symbols — which can be seen simply by glancing at the 
table of contents of our publications before and after the 1920s — corresponds 
in our discipline to nothing less than a change of object, whose tendency to 
align itself with the most undifferentiated level of communication, in order to 
accommodate the new objectives proposed for psychoanalytic technique, is 
perhaps responsible for the rather gloomy balance sheet that the most lucid 
analysts have drawn up of its results. 18 

How, indeed, could speech exhaust the meaning of speech or — to put it 
better with the Oxford logical positivists, the meaning of meaning* — if not 
in the act that engenders it? Thus Goethe 's reversal of its presence at the ori- 

The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis 225 

gin, "In the beginning was the act," is itself reversed in its turn: it was cer- 
tainly the Word that was [etait] in the beginning, and we live in its creation, 
but it is our mental [esprit] action that continues this creation by constantly 
renewing it. And we can only think back to this action by allowing ourselves 
to be driven ever further ahead by it. 

I shall try it myself only in the knowledge that this is its pathway . . . 

No one is supposed to be ignorant of the law; this formulation, provided by 272 

the humor in our Code of Laws, nevertheless expresses the truth in which our 
experience is grounded, and which our experience confirms. No man is actu- 
ally ignorant of it, because the law of man has been the law of language since 
the first words of recognition presided over the first gifts — it having taken the 
detestable Danai, who came and fled by sea, for men to learn to fear decep- 
tive words accompanying faithless gifts. Up until then, these gifts, the act of 
giving them and the objects given, their transmutation into signs, and even 
their fabrication, were so closely intertwined with speech for the pacific Argo- 
nauts — uniting the islets of their community with the bonds [noeuds] of a sym- 
bolic commerce — that they were designated by its name. 19 

Is it with these gifts, or with the passwords that give them their salutary 
nonmeaning, that language begins along with law? For these gifts are already 
symbols, in the sense that symbol means pact, and they are first and foremost 
signifiers of the pact they constitute as the signified; this is plainly seen in the 
fact that the objects of symbolic exchange — vases made to remain empty, 
shields too heavy to be carried, sheaves that will dry out, lances that are 
thrust into the ground — are all destined to be useless, if not superfluous by 
their very abundance. 

Is this neutralization by means of the signifier the whole of the nature of 
language? Were this the case, one would find a first approximation of lan- 
guage among sea swallows, for instance, during display, materialized in the 
fish they pass each other from beak to beak; ethologists — if we must agree 
with them in seeing in this the instrument of a stirring into action of the group 
that is tantamount to a party — would then be altogether justified in recog- 
nizing a symbol in this activity. 

It can be seen that I do not shrink from seeking the origins of symbolic 
behavior outside the human sphere. But it is certainly not by the pathway of 
an elaboration of signs, the pathway Jules H. Masserman, 20 following in the 
footsteps of so many others, has taken. I shall dwell on it for an instant here, 
not only because of the savvy tone with which he outlines his approach, but 273 

also because his work has been well received by the editors of our official 

226 Ecrits 

journal, who — following a tradition borrowed from employment agen- 
cies — never neglect anything that might provide our discipline with "good 

Think of it — we have here a man who has reproduced neurosis ex-pe-ri- 
men-tal-ly in a dog tied down on a table, and by what ingenious methods: a 
bell, the plate of meat that it announces, and the plate of apples that arrives 
instead; I'll spare you the rest. He will certainly not be one, at least so he assures 
us, to let himself be taken in by the "extensive ruminations," as he puts it, that 
philosophers have devoted to the problem of language. Not him, he's going 
to grab it by the throat. 

Can you imagine? — a raccoon can be taught, by a judicious conditioning 
of his reflexes, to go to his food box when he is presented with a card on which 
the meal he is to be served is printed. We are not told whether it lists the var- 
ious prices, but the convincing detail is added that if the service disappoints 
him, he comes back and tears up the card that promised too much, just as a 
furious woman might do with the letters of a faithless lover (sic). 

This is one of the arches supporting the road by which the author leads us 
from the signal to the symbol. It is a two-way street, and the way back is illus- 
trated by no less imposing structures. 

For if, in a human subject, you associate the ringing of a bell with the pro- 
jection of a bright light into his eyes and then the ringing alone to the order, 
"contract,"* you will succeed in getting the subject to make his pupils con- 
tract just by pronouncing the order himself, then by whispering it, and even- 
tually just by thinking it — in other words, you will obtain a reaction of the 
nervous system that is called autonomic because it is usually inaccessible to 
intentional effects. Thus, if we are to believe Masserman, a certain Hudgkins 
"had created in a group of people a highly individualized configuration of 
cognate and visceral reactions to the idea-symbol 'contract' — a response 
which could be traced through their special experiences to an apparently 
remote but actually basic physiologic source: in this instance, simply the pro- 
tection of the retina from excessive light." And Masserman concludes: "The 
274 significance of such experiments for psycho-somatic and linguistic research 

hardly needs further elaboration." 

For my part, I would have been curious to know whether subjects trained 
in this way also react to the enunciation of the same term in the expressions 
"marriage contract,"* "contract bridge,"* and "breach of contract,"* and even 
when the term is progressively shortened to the articulation of its first sylla- 
ble alone: contract, contrac, contra, contr . . . The control test required by strict 
scientific method would then be supplied all by itself as the French reader mut- 
tered this syllable under his breath, even though he would have been subjected 

The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis zzy 

to no other conditioning than that of the bright light projected on the problem 
by Masserman himself. I would then ask this author whether the effects thus 
observed among conditioned subjects still appeared to so easily do without fur- 
ther elaboration. For either the effects would no longer be produced, thus reveal- 
ing that they do not even conditionally depend on the semanteme, or they would 
continue to be produced, raising the question of the semanteme 's limits. 

In other words, they would cause the distinction between the signifier and 
the signified, so blithely confounded by the author in the English term "idea- 
symbol,"* to appear in the very word as instrument. And without needing to 
examine the reactions of subjects conditioned to react to the command "don't 
contract," or even to the complete conjugation of the verb "to contract," I 
could remark to the author that what defines any element whatsoever of a 
language [langue] as belonging to language is that, for all the users of the lan- 
guage [langue], this element is distinguished as such in the supposedly consti- 
tuted set of homologous elements. 

Thus, the particular effects of this element of language are linked to the 
existence of this set, prior to any possible link with any of the subject's par- 
ticular experiences. And to consider this last link independently of any refer- 
ence to the first is simply to deny the characteristic function of language to 
this element. 

This reminder of first principles might perhaps save our author from dis- 
covering, with an unequaled naivete, the verbatim correspondence of the gram- 
matical categories of his childhood to relations found in reality. 

This monument of naivete — of a kind which is, moreover, common 
enough in these matters — would not be worth so much attention if it had not 
been erected by a psychoanalyst, or rather by someone who, as if by chance, 275 

relates everything to it which is produced by a certain tendency in psycho- 
analysis — under the heading of the theory of the ego or technique of the analy- 
sis of defenses — that is diametrically opposed to Freudian experience; he 
thereby manifests a contrario that a sound conception of language is coherent 
with the preservation of Freudian experience. For Freud's discovery was that 
of the field of the effects, in man's nature, of his relations to the symbolic order 
and the fact that their meaning goes all the way back to the most radical 
instances of symbolization in being. To ignore the symbolic order is to con- 
demn Freud's discovery to forgetting and analytic experience to ruin. 

I declare — and this is a declaration that cannot be divorced from the seri- 
ous intent of my present remarks — that I would prefer to have the raccoon I 
mentioned earlier sitting in the armchair to which, according to our author, 
Freud's shyness confined the analyst by placing him behind the couch, rather 
than a scientist who discourses on language and speech as Masserman does. 

228 Ecrits 

For — thanks to Jacques Prevert ("A stone, two houses, three ruins, four 
ditch diggers, a garden, some flowers, a raccoon") — the raccoon, at least, has 
definitively entered the poetic bestiary and partakes as such, in its essence, of 
the symbol's eminent function. But that being resembling us who professes, 
as Masserman does, a systematic misrecognition of that function, forever ban- 
ishes himself from everything that can be called into existence by it. Thus, the 
question of the place to be assigned the said semblable in the classification of 
natural beings would seem to me to smack of a misplaced humanism, if his 
discourse, crossed with a technique of speech of which we are the guardians, 
were not in fact too fertile, even in producing sterile monsters within it. Let 
it be known therefore, since he also credits himself with braving the reproach 
of anthropomorphism, that this is the last term I would employ in saying that 
he makes his own being the measure of all things. 

Let us return to our symbolic object, which is itself extremely substantial 
[consistant] in its matter, even if it has lost the weight of use, but whose impon- 
derable meaning will produce displacements of some weight. Is that, then, law 
and language? Perhaps not yet. 
276 For even if there appeared among the sea swallows some kaid of the colony 

who, by gulping down the symbolic fish from the others' gaping beaks, were 
to inaugurate the exploitation of swallow by swallow — a fanciful notion I 
enjoyed developing one day — this would not in any way suffice to reproduce 
among them that fabulous history, the image of our own, whose winged epic 
kept us captive on Penguin Island-, something else would still be needed to cre- 
ate a "swallowized" universe. 

This "something else" completes the symbol, making language of it. In 
order for the symbolic object freed from its usage to become the word freed 
from the hie et nunc, the difference resides not in the sonorous quality of its 
matter, but in its vanishing being in which the symbol finds the permanence 
of the concept. 

Through the word — which is already a presence made of absence — 
absence itself comes to be named in an original moment whose perpetual re- 
creation Freud's genius detected in a child's game. And from this articulated 
couple of presence and absence — also sufficiently constituted by the drawing 
in the sand of a simple line and a broken line of the koua mantics of China — 
a language 's [langue] world of meaning is born, in which the world of things 
will situate itself. 

Through what becomes embodied only by being the trace of a nothingness 
and whose medium thus cannot be altered, concepts, in preserving the dura- 
tion of what passes away, engender things. 

For it is still not saying enough to say that the concept is the thing itself, 

The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis 229 

which a child can demonstrate against the Scholastics. It is the world of words 
that creates the world of things — things which at first run together in the hie 
et nunc of the all in the process of becoming — by giving its concrete being to 
their essence, and its ubiquity to what has always been: KTrju.a eg aei. 

Man thus speaks, but it is because the symbol has made him man. Even if, 
in fact, overabundant gifts welcome a stranger who has made himself known 
to a group, the life of natural groups that constitute a community is subject to 
the rules of matrimonial alliance — determining the direction in which the 
exchange of women takes place — and to the mutual services determined by 
marriage: as the SiRonga proverb says, "A relative by marriage is an elephant's 
hip." Marriage ties are governed by an order of preference whose law con- 
cerning kinship names is, like language, imperative for the group in its forms, 
but unconscious in its structure. Now, in this structure, whose harmony or 
conflicts govern the restricted or generalized exchange discerned in it by eth- 277 

nologists, the startled theoretician refinds the whole logic of combinations; 
thus the laws of number — that is, of the most highly purified of all symbols — 
prove to be immanent in the original symbolism. At least, it is the richness of 
the forms — in which what are known as the elementary structures of kinship 
develop — that makes those laws legible in the original symbolism. And this 
suggests that it is perhaps only our unawareness of their permanence that allows 
us to believe in freedom of choice in the so-called complex structures of mar- 
riage ties under whose law we live. If statistics has already allowed us to glimpse 
that this freedom is not exercised randomly, it is because a subjective logic 
seems to orient its effects. 

This is precisely where the Oedipus complex — insofar as we still acknowl- 
edge that it covers the whole field of our experience with its signification — 
will be said, in my remarks here, to mark the limits our discipline assigns to 
subjectivity: namely, what the subject can know of his unconscious participa- 
tion in the movement of the complex structures of marriage ties, by verifying 
the symbolic effects in his individual existence of the tangential movement 
toward incest that has manifested itself ever since the advent of a universal 

The primordial Law is therefore the Law which, in regulating marriage ties, 
superimposes the reign of culture over the reign of nature, the latter being 
subject to the law of mating. The prohibition of incest is merely the subjec- 
tive pivot of that Law, laid bare by the modern tendency to reduce the objects 
the subject is forbidden to choose to the mother and sisters, full license, more- 
over, not yet being entirely granted beyond them. 

This law, then, reveals itself clearly enough as identical to a language 
order. For without names for kinship relations, no power can institute the 

23 o Ecrits 

order of preferences and taboos that knot and braid the thread of lineage 
through the generations. And it is the confusion of generations which, in the 
Bible as in all traditional laws, is cursed as being the abomination of the Word 
and the desolation of the sinner. 

Indeed, we know the damage a falsified filiation can do, going as far as dis- 
sociation of the subject's personality, when those around him conspire to sus- 
278 tain the lie. It may be no less when, as a result of a man marrying the mother 

of the woman with whom he has had a son, the son's brother will be his bio- 
logical mother's half-brother. But if the son is later adopted — and I have not 
invented this example — by the sympathizing couple formed by a daughter of 
his father's previous marriage and her husband, he will find himself once 
again a half-brother, this time of his foster mother; and one can imagine the 
complex feelings he will have while awaiting the birth of a child who, in this 
recurring situation, will be his brother and nephew simultaneously. 

So too, the mere time-lag produced in the order of generations by a late- 
born child of a second marriage, where a young mother finds herself the same 
age as an older brother from the first marriage, can produce similar effects; as 
we know, this was true in Freud's own family. 

This same function of symbolic identification — allowing primitive man to 
believe he is the reincarnation of an ancestor with the same name, and even 
determining an alternating recurrence of characteristics in modern man — thus 
brings about a dissociation of the Oedipus complex in subjects exposed to such 
discordances in the paternal relation, in which the constant source of its path- 
ogenic effects must be seen. Indeed, even when it is represented by a single 
person, the paternal function concentrates in itself both imaginary and real 
relations that always more or less fail to correspond to the symbolic relation 
that essentially constitutes it. 

It is in the name of the father that we must recognize the basis of the sym- 
bolic function which, since the dawn of historical time, has identified his per- 
son with the figure of the law. This conception allows us to clearly distinguish, 
in the analysis of a case, the unconscious effects of this function from the nar- 
cissistic relations, or even real relations, that the subject has with the image 
and actions of the person who embodies this function; this results in a mode 
of comprehension that has repercussions on the very way in which interven- 
tions are made by the analyst. Practice has confirmed the fecundity of this 
conception to me, as well as to the students whom I have introduced to this 
method. And, both in supervision and case discussions, I have often had occa- 
sion to stress the harmful confusion produced by neglecting it. 

Thus it is the virtue of the Word that perpetuates the movement of the Great 
Debt whose economy Rabelais, in a famous metaphor, extended to the stars 

The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis 231 

themselves. And we shall not be surprised that the chapter in which he antic- 
ipates ethnographic discoveries with the macaronic inversion of kinship 279 
names, reveals in the Word the substantific divination of the human mystery 
that I am trying to elucidate here. 

Identified with sacred hau or omnipresent mana, the inviolable Debt is the 
guarantee that the voyage on which women and goods are sent will bring 
back to their point of departure, in a never-failing cycle, other women and 
other goods, all bearing an identical entity: what Levi-Strauss calls a "zero- 
symbol," thus reducing the power of Speech to the form of an algebraic sign. 

Symbols in fact envelop the life of man with a network so total that they 
join together those who are going to engender him "by bone and flesh" before 
he comes into the world; so total that they bring to his birth, along with the 
gifts of the stars, if not with the gifts of the fairies, the shape of his destiny; so 
total that they provide the words that will make him faithful or renegade, the 
law of the acts that will follow him right to the very place where he is not yet 
and beyond his very death; and so total that through them his end finds its 
meaning in the last judgment, where the Word absolves his being or condemns 
it — unless he reaches the subjective realization of being-toward-death. 

Servitude and grandeur in which the living being would be annihilated, if 
desire did not preserve his part in the interferences and pulsations that the cycles 
of language cause to converge on him, when the confusion of tongues inter- 
venes and the orders thwart each other in the tearing asunder of the universal 

But for this desire itself to be satisfied in man requires that it be recognized, 
through the accord of speech or the struggle for prestige, in the symbol or the 

What is at stake in an analysis is the advent in the subject of the scant real- 
ity that this desire sustains in him, with respect to symbolic conflicts and imag- 
inary fixations, as the means of their accord, and our path is the inter subjective 
experience by which this desire gains recognition. 

Thus we see that the problem is that of the relations between speech and 
language in the subject. 

Three paradoxes in these relations present themselves in our domain. 

In madness, of whatever nature, we must recognize on the one hand the 
negative freedom of a kind of speech that has given up trying to gain recog- 
nition, which is what we call an obstacle to transference; and, on the other, 280 
the singular formation of a delusion which — whether fabular, fantastical, or 
cosmological, or rather interpretative, demanding, or idealist — objectifies 
the subject in a language devoid of dialectic. 21 

The absence of speech is manifested in madness by the stereotypes of a dis- 

232 Ecrits 

course in which the subject, one might say, is spoken instead of speaking; we 
recognize here the symbols of the unconscious in petrified forms that find their 
place in a natural history of these symbols alongside the embalmed forms in 
which myths are presented in our collections of them. But it would be wrong 
to say that the subject assumes these symbols: the resistance to their recogni- 
tion is no less strong in psychosis than in the neuroses, when the subject is led 
to recognize them by an attempt at treatment. 

Let it be said in passing that it would be worthwhile noting the places in 
social space that our culture has assigned these subjects, especially as regards 
their relegation to the social services relating to language, for it is not unlikely 
that we find here one of the factors that consign such subjects to the effects of 
the breakdown produced by the symbolic discordances characteristic of the 
complex structures of civilization. 

The second case is represented by the privileged field of psychoanalytic 
discovery — namely, symptoms, inhibition, and anxiety in the constitutive 
economy of the different neuroses. 

Here speech is driven out of the concrete discourse that orders conscious- 
ness, but it finds its medium either in the subject's natural functions — pro- 
vided a painful organic sensation wedges open the gap between his individual 
being and his essence, which makes illness what institutes the existence of the 
subject in the living being 22 — or in the images that, at the border between the 
Umwelt and the Innenwelt, organize their relational structuring. 

A symptom here is the signifier of a signified that has been repressed from 
the subject's consciousness. A symbol written in the sand of the flesh and on 
28 1 the veil of Maia, it partakes of language by the semantic ambiguity that I have 

already highlighted in its constitution. 

But it is fully functioning speech, for it includes the other's discourse in the 
secret of its cipher [chiffre]. 

It was by deciphering this speech that Freud rediscovered the first language 
of symbols, 23 still alive in the sufferings of civilized man (Das Unbehagen in 
der Kultur {Civilisation and Its Discontents^). 

Hieroglyphics of hysteria, blazons of phobia, and labyrinths oiZwangsneu- 
rose [obsessive neurosis]; charms of impotence, enigmas of inhibition, and ora- 
cles of anxiety; talking arms of character, 24 seals of self-punishment, and 
disguises of perversion: these are the hermetic elements that our exegesis 
resolves, the equivocations that our invocation dissolves, and the artifices that 
our dialectic absolves, by delivering the imprisoned meaning in ways that run 
the gamut from revealing the palimpsest to providing the solution [mot] of the 
mystery and to pardoning speech. 

The third paradox of the relation of language to speech is that of the sub- 

The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis 233 

ject who loses his meaning in the objectifications of discourse. However meta- 
physical its definition may seem, we cannot ignore its presence in the fore- 
ground of our experience. For this is the most profound alienation of the subject 
in our scientific civilization, and it is this alienation that we encounter first 
when the subject begins to talk to us about himself. In order to eliminate it 
entirely, analysis should thus be conducted until it has reached the endpoint 
of wisdom. 

To provide an exemplary formulation of this, I can find no more relevant 
terrain than the usage of everyday speech, pointing out that the expression "ce 
suis-je" ["it is I"] of Villon's era has become inverted in the expression "c'est 
moi" ["it's me"] of modern man. 

The me [moi] of modern man, as I have indicated elsewhere, has taken on 
its form in the dialectical impasse of the beautiful soul who does not recog- 
nize his very reason for being in the disorder he denounces in the world. 

But a way out of this impasse is offered to the subject where his discourse 
rants and raves. Communication can be validly established for him in science 's 282 

collective undertaking and in the tasks science ordains in our universal civi- 
lization; this communication will be effective within the enormous objectifi- 
cation constituted by this science, and it will allow him to forget his subjectivity. 
He will make an effective contribution to the collective undertaking in his daily 
work and will be able to occupy his leisure time with all the pleasures of a pro- 
fuse culture which — providing everything from detective novels to historical 
memoirs and from educational lectures to the orthopedics of group relations — 
will give him the wherewithal to forget his own existence and his death, as well 
as to misrecognize the particular meaning of his life in false communication. 

If the subject did not rediscover through regression — often taken as far back 
as the mirror stage [stade] — the inside of a stadium [stade] in which his ego 
contains his imaginary exploits, there would hardly be any assignable limits 
to the credulity to which he would have to succumb in this situation. Which 
is what makes our responsibility so formidable when, with the mythical 
manipulations of our doctrine, we bring him yet another opportunity to 
become alienated, in the decomposed trinity of the ego,* the superego,* and 
the id,* for example. 

Here it is a wall of language that blocks speech, and the precautions against 
verbalism that are a theme of the discourse of "normal" men in our culture 
merely serve to increase its thickness. 

There might be some point in measuring its thickness by the statistically deter- 
mined total pounds of printed paper, miles of record grooves, and hours of radio 
broadcasts that the said culture produces per capita in sectors A, B, and C of its 
domain. This would be a fine research topic for our cultural organizations, and 

234 Ecrits 

it would be seen that the question of language does not remain entirely within 
the region of the brain in which its use is reflected in the individual. 

We are the hollow men 
We are the stuffed men 
Leaning together 
Headpiece filled with straw, Alas! 
(and so on.) 

283 The resemblance between this situation and the alienation of madness — 

insofar as the formulation given above is authentic, namely, that the mad sub- 
ject is spoken rather than speaking — is obviously related to the requirement, 
presupposed by psychoanalysis, of true speech. If this consequence, which takes 
the paradoxes that are constitutive of what I am saying here as far as they can 
go, were to be turned against the common sense of the psychoanalytic per- 
spective, I would readily grant the pertinence of this objection, but only to 
find my own position confirmed in it — by a dialectical reversal for which there 
would be no shortage of authorized patrons, beginning with Hegel's critique 
of "the philosophy of the skull," and stopping only at Pascal's resounding warn- 
ing, at the dawn of the historical era of the "me" ["moi"\ formulated in the 
following terms: "Men are so necessarily mad that it would be another twist 
of madness not to be mad." 

This is not to say, however, that our culture pursues its course in the shad- 
ows outside of creative subjectivity. On the contrary, creative subjectivity has 
not ceased in its struggle to renew here the never-exhausted power of sym- 
bols in the human exchange that brings them to light. 

To emphasize the small number of subjects who prop up this creation would 
be to give in to a romantic perspective by comparing things that are not equiv- 
alent. The fact is that this subjectivity, regardless of the domain in which it 
appears — mathematics, politics, religion, or even advertising — continues to 
animate the movement of humanity as a whole. Looking at it from another, 
probably no less illusory, angle would lead us to emphasize the opposite trait: 
the fact that its symbolic character has never been more manifest. The irony 
of revolutions is that they engender a power that is all the more absolute in its 
exercise, not because it is more anonymous, as people say, but because it is 
reduced more completely to the words that signify it. The strength of churches 
lies more than ever in the language they have been able to maintain — an 
instance, it should be noted, that Freud left aside in the article in which he 
sketches out for us what I call the "collective subjectivities" of the Church and 
the Army. 

The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis 2j5 

Psychoanalysis has played a role in the direction of modern subjectivity, 
and it cannot sustain this role without aligning it with the movement in mod- 
ern science that elucidates it. 

This is the problem of the foundations that must assure our discipline its 284 

place among the sciences: a problem of formalization, which, it must be admit- 
ted, has gotten off to a very bad start. 

For it seems that, possessed anew by the very shortcoming in the medical 
mind in opposition to which psychoanalysis had to constitute itself, we were 
trying to jump back on the bandwagon of science — being half a century behind 
the movement of the sciences — by following medicine's example. 

This leads to abstract objectification of our experience on the basis of fic- 
titious, or even simulated, principles of experimental method — in which we 
find the effect of biases that must first be swept from our field if we wish to 
cultivate it according to its authentic structure. 

As practitioners of the symbolic function, it is surprising that we shy away 
from delving deeper into it, going so far as to neglect the fact that this func- 
tion situates us at the heart of the movement that is establishing a new order 
of the sciences, with a rethinking of anthropology. 

This new order simply signifies a return to a notion of true science whose 
credentials are already inscribed in a tradition that begins with Plato's Theaete- 
tus. This notion has degenerated, as we know, in the positivist reversal which, 
by making the human sciences the crowning glory of the experimental sci- 
ences, in fact subordinates them to the latter. This conception results from an 
erroneous view of the history of science founded on the prestige of a special- 
ized development of experimentation. 

Today, however, the conjectural sciences are discovering once again the 
age-old notion of science, forcing us to revise the classification of the sciences 
we have inherited from the nineteenth century in a direction clearly indicated 
by the most lucid thinkers. 

One need but follow the concrete evolution of the various disciplines in 
order to become aware of this. 

Linguistics can serve us as a guide here, since that is the vanguard role it is 
given by contemporary anthropology, and we cannot remain indifferent to it. 

The form of mathematicization in which the discovery of the phoneme is 
inscribed, as a function of pairs of oppositions formed by the smallest grasp- 
able discriminative semantic elements, leads us to the very foundations that 
Freud's final doctrine designates as the subjective sources of the symbolic func- 
tion in a vocalic connotation of presence and absence. 285 

And the reduction of any language [langue] to a group comprised of a very 
small number of such phonemic oppositions, initiating an equally rigorous 

236 Ecrits 

formalization of its highest-level morphemes, puts within our reach a strict 
approach to our own field. 

It is up to us to adopt this approach to discover how it intersects with our 
own field, just as ethnography, which follows a course parallel to our own, is 
already doing by deciphering myths according to the synchrony of mythemes. 

Isn't it striking that Levi-Strauss — in suggesting the involvement in myths 
of language structures and of those social laws that regulate marriage ties and 
kinship — is already conquering the very terrain in which Freud situates the 
unconscious? 25 

It is thus impossible not to make a general theory of the symbol the axis of 
a new classification of the sciences where the sciences of man will reassume 
their central position as sciences of subjectivity. Let me indicate its core 
principle, which, of course, does not obviate the need for further elaboration. 

The symbolic function presents itself as a twofold movement in the sub- 
ject: man makes his own action into an object, but only to return its founda- 
tional place to it in due time. In this equivocation, operating at every instant, 
lies the whole progress of a function in which action and knowledge [con- 
naissance] alternate. 26 

Here are two examples, one borrowed from the classroom, the other from 
the very pulse of our time: 

• The first is mathematical: in phase one, man objectifies two collections he 
has counted in the form of two cardinal numbers; in phase two, he man- 
ages to add the two collections using these numbers (see the example cited 
by Kant in the introduction to the transcendental aesthetic, section IV, in 
the second edition of the Critique of Pure Reason); 

• The second is historical: in phase one, a man who works at the level of pro- 
duction in our society considers himself to belong to the ranks of the prole- 
tariat; in phase two, in the name of belonging to it, he joins in a general strike. 

286 If these two examples come from areas which, for us, are the most highly 

contrasted in the domain of the concrete — the first involving the ever freer 
play of mathematical law, the second, the brazen face of capitalist exploita- 
tion — it is because, although they seem to come from radically different realms, 
their effects come to constitute our subsistence, precisely by intersecting there 
in a double reversal: the most subjective science having forged a new reality, 
and the shadow of the social divide arming itself with a symbol in action. 

Here the distinction people make between the exact sciences and those for 
which there is no reason to refuse the appellation "conjectural" no longer seems 
to be acceptable — for lack of any grounds for that distinction. 27 

The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis 233 

For exactness must be distinguished from truth, and conjecture does not 
exclude rigor. If experimental science derives its exactness from mathematics, 
its relation to nature is nonetheless problematic. 

Indeed, if our link to nature incites us to wonder poetically whether it is 
not nature 's own movement that we refind in our science, in 

. . . cette voix 

Qui se connait quand elle sonne 
N'etre plus la voix de personne 
Tant que des ondes et des bois, 

it is clear that our physics is but a mental fabrication in which mathematical 
symbols serve as instruments. 

For experimental science is not so much defined by the quantity to which 
it is in fact applied, as by the measurement it introduces into reality [reel]. 

This can be seen in relation to the measurement of time without which exper- 
imental science would be impossible. Huyghens' clock, which alone gave exper- 
imental science its precision, is merely the organ that fulfills Galileo's 
hypothesis concerning the equal gravitational pull on all bodies — that is, the 
hypothesis of uniform acceleration that confers its law, since it is the same, on 
every instance of falling. 

It is amusing to point out that the instrument was completed before the 
hypothesis could be verified by observation, and that the clock thereby ren- 287 

dered the hypothesis useless at the same time as it offered it the instrument it 
needed to be rigorous. 28 

But mathematics can symbolize another kind of time, notably the inter- 
subjective time that structures human action, whose formulas are beginning 
to be provided by game theory, still called strategy, but which it would be bet- 
ter to call "stochastics." 

The author of these lines has attempted to demonstrate in the logic of a 
sophism the temporal mainsprings through which human action, insofar as it 
is coordinated with the other's action, finds in the scansion of its hesitations 
the advent of its certainty; and, in the decision that concludes it, gives the other's 
action — which it now includes — its direction [sens] to come, along with its 
sanction regarding the past. 

I demonstrate there that it is the certainty anticipated by the subject in the 
"time for understanding" which — through the haste that precipitates the 
"moment of concluding" — determines the other's decision that makes the sub- 
ject's own movement an error or truth. 

This example indicates how the mathematical formalization that inspired 

238 Ecrits 

Boolean logic, and even set theory, can bring to the science of human action 
the structure of intersubjective time that psychoanalytic conjecture needs to 
ensure its own rigor. 

If, moreover, the history of the historian's technique shows that its progress 
is defined in the ideal of an identification of the historian's subjectivity with 
the constitutive subjectivity of the primal historicization in which events are 
humanized, it is clear that psychoanalysis finds its precise scope here: that is, 
in knowledge [connaissance], as realizing this ideal, and in efficacy, as finding 
its justification here. The example of history also dissipates like a mirage the 
recourse to the "lived reaction" that obsesses both our technique and our the- 
ory, for the fundamental historicity of the events we are concerned with suf- 
fices to conceive the possibility of a subjective reproduction of the past in the 

Furthermore, this example makes us realize how psychoanalytic regression 
288 implies the progressive dimension of the subject's history — which Freud 

rightly considered to be lacking in the Jungian concept of neurotic regres- 
sion — and we see how analytic experience itself renews this progression by 
assuring its continuation. 

Finally, the reference to linguistics will introduce us to the method which, 
by distinguishing synchronic from diachronic structurings in language, will 
enable us to better understand the different value our language takes on in the 
interpretation of resistances and of transference, and to differentiate the 
effects characteristic of repression and the structure of the individual myth in 
obsessive neurosis. 

The list of disciplines Freud considered important sister sciences for an ideal 
Department of Psychoanalysis is well known. Alongside psychiatry and sex- 
ology we find "the history of civilization, mythology, the psychology of reli- 
gions, literary history, and literary criticism." 

This whole group of subjects, determining the curriculum for instruction 
in technique, can be easily accommodated in the epistemological triangle I have 
described, and would provide an advanced level of instruction in analytic the- 
ory and technique with its primer. 

For my part, I would be inclined to add: rhetoric, dialectic (in the techni- 
cal sense this term takes on in Aristotle 's Topics) , grammar, and poetics — the 
supreme pinnacle of the aesthetics of language — which would include the neg- 
lected technique of witticisms. 

While these subject headings may sound somewhat old-fashioned to cer- 
tain people, I would not hesitate to endorse them as a return to our sources. 

For psychoanalysis in its early development, intimately linked to the dis- 
covery and study of symbols, went so far as to partake in the structure of what 

The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis 239 

was called "the liberal arts" in the Middle Ages. Deprived, like them, of a true 
formalization, psychoanalysis became organized, like them, into a body of priv- 
ileged problems, each one promoted by some felicitous relation of man to his 
own measure, taking on a charm and a humanity owing to this particularity 
that in our eyes might well make up for their somewhat recreational appear- 
ance. But let us not disdain this appearance in the early developments of psy- 
choanalysis; indeed, it expresses nothing less than the re-creation of human 289 
meaning in an arid era of scientism. 

These early developments should be all the less disdained since psycho- 
analysis has hardly raised the bar by setting off along the false pathways of a 
theorization that runs counter to its dialectical structure. 

Psychoanalysis can provide scientific foundations for its theory and 
technique only by adequately formalizing the essential dimensions of its 
experience, which — along with the historical theory of the symbol — are 
inter subjective logic and the temporality of the subject. 

III. The Resonances of Interpretation and the Time of the 
Subject in Psychoanalytic Technique 

Between man and love, 

There is woman. 
Between man and woman, 

There is a world. 
Between man and the world, 

There is a wall. 
— Antoine Tudal, Paris in the Year 2000 

Nam Sibyllam quidem Cumis ego ipse oculis meis vidi in ampulla pendere, et cum 
illi pueri dicerent: ZifivXka xi Ge^eig^ respondebat ilia: (XJtoGaveiv 0e)aD. 
— Petronius, Satyricon, XLVIII 

Bringing psychoanalytic experience back to speech and language as its foun- 
dations is of direct concern to its technique. While it is not situated in the inef- 
fable, we see the one-way slippage that has occurred, distancing interpretation 
from its core. We are thus justified in suspecting that this deviation in psy- 
choanalytic practice explains the new aims to which psychoanalytic theory has 
become receptive. 

If we look at the situation a little more closely, we see that the problems of 
symbolic interpretation began by intimidating our little group before becom- 
ing embarrassing to it. The successes obtained by Freud now astonish people 
because of the unseemly indoctrination they appear to involve, and the dis- 290 

play thereof — so evident in the cases of Dora, the Rat Man, and the Wolf 

240 Ecrits 

Man — strikes us as nothing short of scandalous. Indeed, our clever colleagues 
do not shrink from doubting whether the technique employed in these cases 
was actually any good. 

This disaffection in the psychoanalytic movement stems, in truth, from a 
confusion of tongues, about which the most representative personality of its 
present hierarchy made no secret in a recent conversation with me. 

It is well worth noting that this confusion grows when each analyst believes 
he has been assigned the job of discovering in our experience the conditions 
of a complete objectification, and when the enthusiasm that greets his theo- 
retical attempts is greater the more detached from reality they prove to be. 

It is clear that the principles of the analysis of the resistances, as well-founded 
as they may be, have in practice occasioned an ever greater misrecognition of 
the subject, because they have not been understood in relation to the inter- 
subjectivity of speech. 

If we follow the proceedings of Freud's first seven sessions with the Rat 
Man, which are reported to us in full, it seems highly improbable that Freud 
did not recognize the resistances as they arose — arising precisely in the places 
where our modern practitioners tell us he overlooked them — since it is 
Freud 's own text, after all, that enables the practitioners to pinpoint them. Once 
again Freud's texts manifest an exhaustion of the subject that amazes us, and 
no interpretation has thus far exploited all of its resources. 

I mean that Freud not only let himself be duped into encouraging his sub- 
ject to go beyond his initial reticence, but also understood perfectly well the 
seductive scope of this game in the imaginary. To convince oneself of this, one 
need but read the description he gives us of the expression on his patient's face 
during the patient's painful narrative of the purported torture that supplied 
the theme of his obsession, that of the rat forced into the victim's anus: "His 
face," Freud tells us, "reflected horror at a jouissance of which he was 
unaware." The effect in the present of his repeating this narrative did not escape 
Freud, no more than did the fact that he identified his analyst with the "cruel 
captain" who forced this narrative to become etched in the subject's memory, 
291 nor therefore the import of the theoretical clarifications the subject required 

as security before going on with what he was saying. 

Far from interpreting the resistance here, however, Freud astonishes us by 
granting the patient's request, to such an extent that he seems to let himself be 
roped into the subject's game. 

But the extremely approximate character of the explanations with which 
Freud gratifies him, so approximate as to appear crude, is sufficiently instruc- 
tive: it is clearly not so much a question here of doctrine or indoctrination as 
of a symbolic gift of speech — ripe with a secret pact, in the context of the imag- 

The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis 241 

inary participation which includes it — whose import will be revealed later in 
the symbolic equivalence the subject establishes in his mind between rats and 
the florins with which he remunerates the analyst. 

We can see therefore that Freud, far from misrecognizing the resistance, 
uses it as a propitious predisposition for setting in motion the resonances of 
speech, and he conducts himself, as far as possible, in accordance with the first 
definition he gave of resistance, by employing it to involve the subject in his 
message. He later changes tack abruptly when he sees that, as a result of being 
handled delicately, the resistance is serving to keep the dialogue at the level of 
a conversation in which the subject tries to continue seducing the analyst by 
slipping beyond his reach. 

But we learn that analysis consists in playing on the multiple staves of the 
score that speech constitutes in the registers of language — which is where 
overdetermination comes in, the latter having no meaning except in this order. 

And we have simultaneously isolated here the mainspring of Freud's suc- 
cess. In order for the analyst's message to respond to the subject's profound 
questioning, the subject must understand it as a response that concerns him 
alone; and the privilege Freud's patients enjoyed, in receiving its good word 
from the lips of the very man who was its herald, satisfied this demand of theirs. 

Let us note in passing that the Rat Man had had a prior taste of it, since he 
had thumbed through The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, which had just 
come out. 

Which doesn't imply that the book is very much better known today, even 
among analysts, but the popularization of Freud's concepts and their resorp- 
tion into what I call the wall of language, would deaden the effect of our speech 
were we to give it the style of Freud's remarks to the Rat Man. 292 

The point here is not to imitate him. In order to rediscover the effect of Freud 's 
speech, I won't resort to its terms but rather to the principles that govern it. 

These principles are nothing but the dialectic of self-consciousness, as it is 
realized from Socrates to Hegel, beginning with the ironic assumption that all 
that is rational is real, only to precipitate into the scientific judgment that all 
that is real is rational. But Freud's discovery was to demonstrate that this ver- 
ifying process authentically reaches the subject only by decentering him from 
self-consciousness, to which he was confined by Hegel's reconstruction of the 
phenomenology of mind. In other words, this discovery renders still flimsier 
any search for "conscious realization" which, apart from being a psycholog- 
ical phenomenon, is not inscribed within the conjuncture of the particular 
moment that alone gives body to the universal, and failing which the latter 
dissipates into generality. 

These remarks define the limits within which it is impossible for our tech- 

242 Ecrits 

nique to ignore the structuring moments of Hegel's phenomenology: first and 
foremost, the master/slave dialectic, the dialectic of the beautiful soul and the 
law of the heart, and generally everything that allows us to understand how 
the constitution of the object is subordinate to the realization of the subject. 

But if there is still something prophetic in Hegel's insistence on the funda- 
mental identity of the particular and the universal, an insistence that reveals 
the extent of his genius, it is certainly psychoanalysis that provides it with its 
paradigm by revealing the structure in which this identity is realized as dis- 
junctive of the subject, and without appealing to the future. 

Let me simply say that this, in my view, constitutes an objection to any ref- 
erence to totality in the individual, since the subject introduces division 
therein, as well as in the collectivity that is the equivalent of the individual. 
Psychoanalysis is what clearly relegates both the one and the other to the sta- 
tus of mirages. 

This would seem to be something that could no longer be forgotten, were 
it not precisely psychoanalysis that teaches us that it is forgettable — confir- 
293 mation of which turns out, by a reversal [retour] that is more legitimate than 

one might think, to come from psychoanalysts themselves, their "new ten- 
dencies" representing this forgetting. 

Now while Hegel's work is also precisely what we need to confer a mean- 
ing on so-called analytic neutrality other than that the analyst is simply in a 
stupor, this does not mean that we have nothing to learn from the elasticity of 
the Socratic method or even from the fascinating proceedings of the technique 
by which Plato presents it to us, were it only by our sensing in Socrates and 
his desire the unresolved enigma of the psychoanalyst, and by situating in rela- 
tion to Platonic vision our own relation to truth — in this case, however, in a 
way that respects the distance separating the reminiscence Plato was led to 
presume to exist in any advent of the ideas, from the exhaustion of being con- 
summated in Kierkegaardian repetition. 29 

But there is also a historical difference between Socrates' interlocutor and 
ours that is worth weighing. When Socrates relies on an artisanal form of rea- 
son that he can extract just as well from a slave's discourse, it is in order to 
impress upon authentic masters the necessity of an order that turns their power 
into justice and the city's magic words [maitres-mots] into truth. But we ana- 
lysts deal with slaves who think they are masters, and who find in a language — 
whose mission is universal — support for their servitude in the bonds of its 
ambiguity. So much so that one might humorously say that our goal is to restore 
in them the sovereign freedom displayed by Humpty Dumpty when he 
reminds Alice that he is, after all, master of the signifier, even if he is not mas- 
ter of the signified from which his being derived its shape. 

The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis 243 

We always come back, then, to our twofold reference to speech and lan- 
guage. In order to free the subject's speech, we introduce him to the language 
of his desire, that is, to the primary language in which — beyond what he tells 
us of himself — he is already speaking to us unbeknown to himself, first and 
foremost, in the symbols of his symptom. 

It is certainly a language that is at stake in the symbolism brought to light 
in analysis. This language, corresponding to the playful wish found in one of 
Lichtenberg's aphorisms, has the universal character of a tongue that would 
be understood in all other tongues, but at the same time — since it is the lan- 
guage that grabs hold of desire at the very moment it becomes humanized by 294 
gaining recognition — it is absolutely particular to the subject. 

It is thus a primary language, by which I do not mean a primitive language, 
since Freud — whose merit for having made this total discovery warrants com- 
parison with Champollion's — deciphered it in its entirety in the dreams of our 
contemporaries. The essential field of this language was rather authoritatively 
defined by one of the earliest assistants associated with Freud's work, and one 
of the few to have brought anything new to it: I mean Ernest Jones, the last 
survivor of those to whom the seven rings of the master were passed and who 
attests by his presence in the honorary positions of an international associa- 
tion that they are not reserved solely for relic bearers. 

In a fundamental article on symbolism, 30 Jones points out on page 102 that, 
although there are thousands of symbols in the sense in which the term is under- 
stood in analysis, all of them refer to one's own body, blood relatives, birth, 
life, and death. 

This truth, recognized de facto by Jones, enables us to understand that 
although the symbol, psychoanalytically speaking, is repressed in the uncon- 
scious, it bears in itself no mark of regression or even of immaturity. For it to 
have its effects in the subject, it is thus enough that it make itself heard, since 
these effects operate unbeknown to him — as we admit in our everyday expe- 
rience, when we explain many reactions by normal and neurotic subjects as 
their response to the symbolic meaning of an act, a relation, or an object. 

It is thus indisputable that the analyst can play on the power of symbols by 
evoking them in a calculated fashion in the semantic resonances of his remarks. 

This is surely the path by which a return to the use of symbolic effects can 
proceed in a renewed technique of interpretation. 

We could adopt as a reference here what the Hindu tradition teaches about 
dhvani? 1 defining it as the property of speech by which it conveys what it does 
not say. This is illustrated by a little tale whose naivete, which appears to be 295 

required in such examples, proves funny enough to induce us to penetrate to 
the truth it conceals. 

244 Ecrits 

A girl, it is said, is awaiting her lover on the bank of a river when she sees 
a Brahmin coming along. She approaches him and exclaims in the most ami- 
able tones: "What a lucky day this is for you! The dog whose barking used to 
frighten you will not be on this river bank again, for it was just devoured by 
a lion that roams around here ..." 

The absence of the lion may thus have as many effects as his spring — which, 
were he present, would only come once, according to the proverb relished by 

The primary character of symbols in fact makes them similar to those num- 
bers out of which all other numbers are composed; and if they therefore under- 
lie all the semantemes of a language, we shall be able to restore to speech its 
full evocative value by a discreet search for their interferences, following the 
course of a metaphor whose symbolic displacement neutralizes the secondary 
meanings of the terms it associates. 

To be taught and to be learned, this technique would require a profound 
assimilation of the resources of a language \langue\ especially those that are 
concretely realized in its poetic texts. It is well known that Freud was steeped 
in German literature, which, by virtue of an incomparable translation, can be 
said to include Shakespeare 's plays. Every one of his works bears witness to 
this, and to the continual recourse he had to it, no less in his technique than in 
his discovery. Not to mention his broad background in the classics, his famil- 
iarity with the modern study of folklore, and his keeping abreast of contem- 
porary humanism's conquests in the area of ethnography. 

Analytic practitioners should be asked not to consider it futile to follow 
Freud along this path. 

But the tide is against us. It can be gauged by the condescending attention 
paid to the "wording,"* as if to some novelty; and the English morphology 
here provides a notion that is still difficult to define with a prop that is suffi- 
ciently subtle for people to make a big to-do about it. 
296 What this notion covers, however, is hardly encouraging when we see an 

author 32 amazed at having achieved an entirely different success in the inter- 
pretation of one and the same resistance by the use, "without conscious pre- 
meditation," he emphasizes, of the term "need for love"* instead of and in the 
place of "demand for love,"* which he had first put forward, without seeing 
anything in it (as he himself tells us). While the anecdote is supposed to con- 
firm the interpretation's reference to the "ego psychology"* in the title of the 
article, it refers instead, it seems, to the analyst's ego psychology,* insofar as 
this interpretation makes do with such a weak use of English that he can extend 
his practice of analysis right to the very brink of gibberish. 33 

The fact is that need* and demand* have diametrically opposed meanings 

The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis 245 

for the subject, and to maintain that they can be used interchangeably for even 
an instant amounts to a radical ignorance of the summoning characteristic of 

For in its symbolizing function, speech tends toward nothing less than a 
transformation of the subject to whom it is addressed by means of the link it 
establishes with the speaker — namely, by bringing about a signifying effect. 

This is why we must return once more to the structure of communication 
in language and definitively dispel the mistaken notion of "language as signs," 
a source in this realm of confusions about discourse and of errors about speech. 

If communication based on language is conceived as a signal by which the 
sender informs the receiver of something by means of a certain code, there is 
no reason why we should not lend as much credence and even more to every 
other kind of sign when the "something" in question concerns the individual: 
indeed, we are quite right to prefer every mode of expression that verges on 
natural signs. 

It is in this way that the technique of speech has been discredited among us 
and we find ourselves in search of a gesture, a grimace, a posture adopted, a 
face made, a movement, a shudder — nay, a stopping of usual movement — for 297 

we are subtle and nothing will stop us from setting our bloodhounds on the 

I shall show the inadequacy of the conception of language as signs by the 
very manifestation that best illustrates it in the animal kingdom, a manifesta- 
tion which, had it not recently been the object of an authentic discovery, would 
have to have been invented for this purpose. 

It is now generally recognized that, when a bee returns to its hive after gath- 
ering nectar, it transmits an indication of the existence of nectar near or far 
away from the hive to its companions by two sorts of dances. The second is 
the most remarkable, for the plane in which the bee traces out a figure-eight — 
a shape that gave it the name "wagging dance"* — and the frequency of the 
figures executed within a given time, designate, on the one hand, the exact 
direction to be followed, determined in relation to the sun's inclination (by 
which bees are able to orient themselves in all kinds of weather, thanks to their 
sensitivity to polarized light), and, on the other hand, the distance at which 
the nectar is to be found up to several miles away. The other bees respond to 
this message by immediately setting off for the place thus designated. 

It took some ten years of patient observation for Karl von Frisch to decode 
this kind of message, for it is certainly a code or signaling system, whose generic 
character alone forbids us to qualify it as conventional. 

But is it a language, for all that? We can say that it is distinguished from 
language precisely by the fixed correlation between its signs and the reality 

246 Ecrits 

they signify. For, in a language, signs take on their value from their relations 
to each other in the lexical distribution of semantemes as much as in the posi- 
tional, or even Sectional, use of morphemes — in sharp contrast to the fixity 
of the coding used by bees. The diversity of human languages takes on its full 
value viewed in this light. 

Furthermore, while a message of the kind described here determines the 
action of the "socius," it is never retransmitted by the socius. This means that 
the message remains frozen in its function as a relay of action, from which no 

298 subject detaches it as a symbol of communication itself. 34 

The form in which language expresses itself in and of itself defines sub- 
jectivity. Language says: "You will go here, and when you see this, you will 
turn off there." In other words, it refers to discourse about the other [discours 
de Vautre\. It is enveloped as such in the highest function of speech, inasmuch 
as speech commits its author by investing its addressee with a new reality, as 
for example, when a subject seals his fate as a married man by saying "You are 
my wife." 

Indeed, this is the essential form from which all human speech derives more 
than the form at which it arrives. 

Hence the paradox that one of my most acute auditors believed to be an 
objection to my position when I first began to make my views known on analy- 
sis as dialectic; he formulated it as follows: "Human language would then con- 
stitute a kind of communication in which the sender receives his own message 
back from the receiver in an inverted form." I could but adopt this objector's 
formulation, recognizing in it the stamp of my own thinking; for I maintain 
that speech always subjectively includes its own reply, that "Thou wouldst not 
seek Me, if thou hadst not found Me" simply validates the same truth, and that 
this is why, in the paranoiac refusal of recognition, it is in the form of a neg- 
ative verbalization that the unavowable feeling eventually emerges in a per- 
secutory "interpretation." 

Thus when you congratulate yourself for having met someone who speaks 
the same language as you, you do not mean that you encounter each other in 
the discourse of everyman, but that you are united to that person by a partic- 
ular way of speaking. 

The antinomy immanent in the relations between speech and language thus 

299 becomes clear. The more functional language becomes, the less suited it is to 
speech, and when it becomes overly characteristic of me alone, it loses its func- 
tion as language. 

We are aware of the use made in primitive traditions of secret names, with 
which the subject identifies his own person or his gods so closely that to reveal 
these names is to lose himself or betray these gods; and what our patients con- 

The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis 24J 

fide in us, as well as our own recollections, teach us that it is not at all rare for 
children to spontaneously rediscover the virtues of that use. 

Finally, the speech value of a language is gauged by the inter subjectivity 
of the "we" it takes on. 

By an inverse antinomy, it can be observed that the more language 's role is 
neutralized as language becomes more like information, the more redundancies 
are attributed to it. This notion of redundancy originated in research that was 
all the more precise because a vested interest was involved, having been 
prompted by the economics of long-distance communication and, in particu- 
lar, by the possibility of transmitting several conversations on a single telephone 
line simultaneously. It was observed that a substantial portion of the phonetic 
medium is superfluous for the communication actually sought to be achieved. 

This is highly instructive to us, 35 for what is redundant as far as informa- 
tion is concerned is precisely what plays the part of resonance in speech. 

For the function of language in speech is not to inform but to evoke. 

What I seek in speech is a response from the other. What constitutes me as 
a subject is my question. In order to be recognized by the other, I proffer what 
was only in view of what will be. In order to find him, I call him by a name 
that he must assume or refuse in order to answer me. 

I identify myself in language, but only by losing myself in it as an object. 
What is realized in my history is neither the past definite as what was, since it 300 

is no more, nor even the perfect as what has been in what I am, but the future 
anterior as what I will have been, given what I am in the process of becoming. 

If I now face someone to question him, there is no cybernetic device imag- 
inable that can turn his response into a reaction. The definition of "response" 
as the second term in the "stimulus-response" circuit is simply a metaphor 
sustained by the subjectivity attributed to animals, only to be elided thereafter 
in the physical schema to which the metaphor reduces it. This is what I have 
called putting a rabbit into a hat so as to pull it out again later. But a reaction 
is not a response. 

If I press an electric button and a light goes on, there is a response only to 
my desire. If in order to obtain the same result I must try a whole system of 
relays whose correct position is unknown to me, there is a question only in 
relation to my expectation, and there will not be a question any more once I 
have learned enough about the system to operate it flawlessly. 

But if I call the person to whom I am speaking by whatever name I like, I 
notify him of the subjective function he must take up in order to reply to me, 
even if it is to repudiate this function. 

The decisive function of my own response thus appears, and this function 
is not, as people maintain, simply to be received by the subject as approval or 

248 Ecrits 

rejection of what he is saying, but truly to recognize or abolish him as a sub- 
ject. Such is the nature of the analyst's responsibility every time he intervenes 
by means of speech. 

The problem of the therapeutic effects of inexact interpretation, raised by 
Edward Glover in a remarkable paper, 36 thus led him to conclusions where 
the question of exactness fades into the background. For not only is every 
spoken intervention received by the subject as a function of his structure, but 
the intervention itself takes on a structuring function due to its form. Indeed, 
non-analytic psychotherapies, and even utterly ordinary medical "prescrip- 
tions," have the precise impact of interventions that could be qualified as 
301 obsessive systems of suggestion, as hysterical suggestions of a phobic nature, 

and even as persecutory supports, each psychotherapy deriving its particular 
character from the way it sanctions the subject's misrecognition of his own 

Speech is in fact a gift of language, and language is not immaterial. It is a 
subtle body, but body it is. Words are caught up in all the body images that 
captivate the subject; they may "knock up" the hysteric, be identified with the 
object of Penisneid, represent the urinary flow of urethral ambition, or repre- 
sent the feces retained in avaricious jouissance. 

Furthermore, words themselves can suffer symbolic lesions and accomplish 
imaginary acts whose victim is the subject. Recall the Wespe (wasp), castrated 
of its initial W to become the S.P. of the Wolf Man's initials, at the moment he 
carried out the symbolic punishment to which he himself was subjected by 
Grusha, the wasp. 

Recall too the S that constitutes the residue of the hermetic formula into 
which the Rat Man's conjuratory invocations became condensed after Freud 
had extracted the anagram of his beloved's name from its cipher, and that, 
tacked onto the beginning of the final "amen" of his jaculatory prayer, eter- 
nally inundated the lady's name with the symbolic ejecta of his impotent desire. 

Similarly, an article by Robert Fliess, 37 inspired by Abraham's inaugural 
remarks, shows us that one 's discourse as a whole may become eroticized, fol- 
lowing the displacements of erogeneity in the body image, momentarily 
determined by the analytic relationship. 

Discourse then takes on a urethral-phallic, anal-erotic, or even oral-sadistic 
function. It is noteworthy, moreover, that the author grasps its effect above 
all in the silences that mark inhibition of the satisfaction the subject derives 
from it. 

In this way speech may become an imaginary or even real object in the sub- 
ject and, as such, debase in more than one respect the function of language. I 
shall thus relegate such speech to the parenthesis of the resistance it manifests. 

The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis 249 

But not in order to exclude it from the analytic relationship, for the latter 302 

would then lose everything, including its raison d'etre. 

Analysis can have as its goal only the advent of true speech and the sub- 
ject's realization of his history in its relation to a future. 

Maintaining this dialectic is directly opposed to any objectifying orienta- 
tion of analysis, and highlighting this necessity is of capital importance if we 
are to see through the aberrations of the new trends in psychoanalysis. 

I shall illustrate my point here by once again returning to Freud, and, since 
I have already begun to make use of it, to the case of the Rat Man. 

Freud goes so far as to take liberties with the exactness of the facts when it 
is a question of getting at the subject's truth. At one point, Freud glimpses the 
determinant role played by the mother's proposal that he marry her cousin's 
daughter at the origin of the present phase of his neurosis. Indeed, as I have 
shown in my seminar, this flashes through Freud 's mind owing to his own per- 
sonal experience. But he does not hesitate to interpret its effect to the subject 
as that of a prohibition by his dead father against his liaison with his lady-love. 

This interpretation is not only factually, but also psychologically, inexact, 
for the father's castrating activity — which Freud affirms here with an insis- 
tence that might be believed systematic — played only a secondary role in this 
case. But Freud's apperception of the dialectical relationship is so apt that the 
interpretation he makes at that moment triggers the decisive destruction of the 
lethal symbols that narcissistically bind the subject both to his dead father and 
to his idealized lady, their two images being sustained, in an equivalence char- 
acteristic of the obsessive, one by the fantasmatic aggressiveness that perpet- 
uates it, the other by the mortifying cult that transforms it into an idol. 

Similarly, it is by recognizing the forced subjectivization of the obsessive 
debt 38 — in the scenario of futile attempts at restitution, a scenario that too per- 
fectly expresses its imaginary terms for the subject to even try to enact it, the 303 
pressure to repay the debt being exploited by the subject to the point of delu- 
sion — that Freud achieves his goal. This is the goal of bringing the subject to 
rediscover — in the story of his father's lack of delicacy, his marriage to the 
subject's mother, the "pretty but penniless girl," his wounded love-life, and 
his ungrateful forgetting of his beneficent friend — to rediscover in this story, 
along with the fateful constellation that presided over the subject 's very birth, 
the unfillable gap constituted by the symbolic debt against which his neuro- 
sis is a protest. 

There is no trace here at all of recourse to the ignoble specter of some sort 
of early "fear," or even to a masochism that it would be easy enough to bran- 
dish, much less to that obsessive buttressing propagated by some analysts in 
the name of the analysis of the defenses. The resistances themselves, as I have 

25o Ecrits 

shown elsewhere, are used as long as possible in the direction [sens] of the 
progress of the discourse. And when it is time to put an end to them, we man- 
age to do so by giving in to them. 

For this is how the Rat Man is able to insert into his subjectivity its true 
mediation in a transferential form: the imaginary daughter he gives Freud in 
order to receive her hand in marriage from him, and who unveils her true face 
to him in a key dream — that of death gazing at him with its bituminous eyes. 

And although it was with this symbolic pact that the ruses of the subject's 
servitude came to an end, reality did not fail him, it seems, in granting him 
these nuptial wishes. The footnote added to the case in 1923 — which Freud 
dedicated as an epitaph to this young man who had found in the risks of war 
"the end that awaited so many worthy young men on whom so many hopes 
had been founded," thus concluding the case with all the rigor of destiny — 
elevates it to the beauty of tragedy. 

In order to know how to respond to the subject in analysis, the method is 
to first determine where his ego* is situated — the ego* that Freud himself 
defined as formed by a verbal nucleus — in other words, to figure out through 
whom and for whom the subject asks his question. As long as this is not known, 
we risk misconstruing the desire that must be recognized there and the object 
to whom this desire is addressed. 

The hysteric captivates this object in a subtle intrigue and her ego* is in the 
third person by means of whom the subject enjoys the object who incarnates 
304 her question. The obsessive drags into the cage of his narcissism the objects 

in which his question reverberates in the multiplied alibi of deadly figures and, 
mastering their high-wire act, addresses his ambiguous homage toward the 
box in which he himself has his seat, that of the master who cannot be seen [se 

Trahit sua quemque voluptas; one identifies with the spectacle and the other 
puts on a show [donne a voir]. 

In the case of the hysterical subject, for whom the term "acting out"* takes 
on its literal meaning since he acts outside himself, you have to get him to rec- 
ognize where his action is situated. In the case of the obsessive, you have to 
get yourself recognized in the spectator, who is invisible from the stage, to 
whom he is united by the mediation of death. 

It is therefore always in the relation between the subject's ego and his dis- 
course 's / that you must understand the meaning of the discourse if you are 
to unalienate the subject. 

But you cannot possibly achieve this if you cleave to the idea that the sub- 
ject 's ego is identical to the presence that is speaking to you. 

This error is fostered by the terminology of the topography that is all too 

The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis z5i 

tempting to an objectifying cast of mind, allowing it to slide from the ego 
defined as the perception-consciousness system — that is, as the system of the 
subject's objectifications — to the ego conceived of as the correlate of an 
absolute reality and thus, in a singular return of the repressed in psychologis- 
tic thought, to once again take the ego as the "reality function" in relation to 
which Pierre Janet organizes his psychological conceptions. 

Such slippage occurred only because it was not realized that, in Freud's 
work, the ego,* id,* superego* topography is subordinate to the metapsychol- 
ogy whose terms he was propounding at the same time and without which the 
topography loses its meaning. Analysts thus became involved in a sort of psy- 
chological orthopedics that will continue to bear fruit for a long time to come. 

Michael Balint has provided a thoroughly penetrating analysis of the inter- 
action between theory and technique in the genesis of a new conception of 
analysis, and he finds no better term to indicate its result than the watchword 
he borrows from Rickman: the advent of a "two-body psychology."* 

Indeed, it couldn't be better put. Analysis is becoming the relation of two 
bodies between which a fantasmatic communication is established in which 
the analyst teaches the subject to apprehend himself as an object. Subjectivity 
is admitted into analysis only as long as it is bracketed as an illusion, and speech 305 

is excluded from a search for lived experience that becomes its supreme aim; 
but its dialectically necessary result appears in the fact that, since the analyst's 
subjectivity is freed [delivree] from all restraint, this leaves the subject at the 
mercy [livre] of every summons of the analyst's speech. 

Once the intrasubjective topography has become entified, it is in fact real- 
ized in the division of labor between the subjects present. This deviant use of 
Freud's formulation that all that is id* must become ego* appears in a demys- 
tified form: the subject, transformed into an /r, has to conform to an ego* which 
the analyst has no trouble recognizing as his ally, since it is, in fact, the ana- 
lyst's own ego.* 

It is precisely this process that is expressed in many a theoretical formula- 
tion of the splitting* of the ego* in analysis. Half of the subject's ego* crosses 
over to the other side of the wall that separates the analysand from the ana- 
lyst, then half of the remaining half, and so on, in an asymptotic progression 
that never succeeds — regardless of how great the inroads it makes into the 
opinion the subject will have formed of himself — in crushing his every pos- 
sibility of reversing the aberrant effects of his analysis. 

But how could a subject, who undergoes a type of analysis based on the prin- 
ciple that all his formulations are systems of defense, defend himself against 
the total disorientation to which this principle consigns the analyst's dialectic? 

Freud's interpretation, the dialectical method of which appears so clearly 

2S2 Ecrits 

in the case of Dora, does not present these dangers, for when the analyst's 
biases (that is, his countertransference, a term whose correct use, in my view, 
cannot be extended beyond the dialectical reasons for his error) have misled 
him in his intervention, he immediately pays a price for it in the form of a neg- 
ative transference. For the latter manifests itself with a force that is all the greater 
the further such an analysis has already led the subject toward an authentic 
recognition, and what usually results is the breaking off of the analysis. 

This is exactly what happened in Dora's case, because of Freud's relentless 
attempts to make her think Herr K. was the hidden object of her desire; the 
constitutive biases of Freud's countertransference led him to see in Herr K. 
the promise of Dora's happiness. 

Dora herself was undoubtedly mistaken [feintee] about her relationship with 
306 Herr K., but she did not feel any the less that Freud was too. Yet when she comes 

back to see him, after a lapse of fifteen months — in which the fateful cipher of 
her "time for understanding" is inscribed — we can sense that she begins to feign 
to have been feigning. The convergence of this feint, raised to the second power, 
with the aggressive intent Freud attributes to it — not inaccurately, of course, 
but without recognizing its true mainspring — presents us with a rough idea of 
the intersubjective complicity that an "analysis of resistances," sure of being 
within its rights, might have perpetuated between them. There can be little doubt 
that, with the means now available to us due to the "progress" that has been 
made in our technique, this human error could have been extended well beyond 
the point at which it would have become diabolical. 

None of this is my own invention, for Freud himself recognized after the 
fact the preliminary source of his failure in his own misrecognition at that time 
of the homosexual position of the object aimed at by the hysteric's desire. 

The whole process that led to this current trend in psychoanalysis no doubt 
goes back, first of all, to the analyst's guilty conscience about the miracle his 
speech performs. He interprets the symbol and, lo and behold, the symptom — 
which inscribes the symbol in letters of suffering in the subject's flesh — dis- 
appears. This thaumaturgy is unbecoming to us. For, after all, we are scientists 
and magic is not a justifiable practice. So we disclaim responsibility by accus- 
ing the patient of magical thinking. Before long we '11 be preaching the Gospel 
according to Levy-Bruhl to him. But in the meantime — behold — we have 
become thinkers again, and have re-established the proper distance between 
ourselves and our patients; for we had, no doubt, a little too quickly aban- 
doned the tradition of respecting that distance, a tradition expressed so nobly 
in the lines by Pierre Janet in which he spoke of the feeble abilities of the hys- 
teric compared to our own lofty ones. "She understands nothing about sci- 
ence," he confides to us regarding the poor little thing, "and doesn't even 

The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis 25s 

imagine how anybody could be interested in it . . . If we consider the absence 
of control that characterizes hysterics' thinking, rather than allowing ourselves 
to be scandalized by their lies, which, in any case, are very naive, we should 
instead be astonished that there are so many honest ones ..." 

Since these lines represent the feelings to which many of those present-day 
analysts who condescend to speak to the patient "in his own language" have 
reverted, they may help us understand what has happened in the meantime. 
For had Freud been capable of endorsing such lines, how could he have heard 307 

as he did the truth contained in the little stories told by his first patients, or 
deciphered a dark delusion like Schreber's to such a great extent as to broaden 
it to encompass man eternally bound to his symbols? 

Is our reason so weak that it cannot see that it is the same in the meditations 
of scientific discourse and in the first exchange of symbolic objects, and can- 
not find here the identical measure of its original cunning? 

Need I point out what the yardstick of "thought" is worth to practitioners 
of an experience that associates the job of thought more closely with a men- 
tal eroticism than with an equivalent of action? 

Must the person who is speaking to you attest that he need not resort to 
"thought" to understand that, if he is speaking to you at this moment about 
speech, it is insofar as we have in common a technique of speech which enables 
you to understand him when he speaks to you about it, and which inclines him 
to address those who understand nothing of it through you? 

Of course, we must be attentive to the unsaid that dwells in the holes in dis- 
course, but the unsaid is not to be understood like knocking coming from the 
other side of the wall. 

If we are to concern ourselves from now on with nothing but such noises, 
as some analysts pride themselves on doing, it must be admitted that we have 
not placed ourselves in the most favorable of conditions to decipher their mean- 
ing — for how, without jumping to conclusions about their meaning, are we 
to translate what is not in and of itself language? Led then to call upon the sub- 
ject, since it is after all to his account that we must transfer this understand- 
ing, we shall involve him with us in a wager, a wager that we understand their 
meaning, and then wait for a return that makes us both winners. As a result, 
in continuing to perform this shuttling back and forth, he will learn quite sim- 
ply to beat time himself; it is a form of suggestion which is no worse than any 
other — in other words, one in which, as in every other form of suggestion, 
one does not know who starts the ball rolling. The procedure is recognized as 
being sound enough when it is a question of going to prison. 39 

Halfway to this extreme the question arises: does psychoanalysis remain a 
dialectical relation in which the analyst's nonaction guides the subject's dis- 308 

254 Ecrits 

course toward the realization of his truth, or is it to be reduced to a fantas- 
matic relation in which "two abysses brush up against each other" without 
touching, until the whole range of imaginary regressions is exhausted — 
reduced, that is, to a sort of "bundling"* 40 taken to the extreme as a psycho- 
logical test? 

In fact, this illusion — which impels us to seek the subject's reality beyond 
the wall of language — is the same one that leads the subject to believe that his 
truth is already there in us, that we know it in advance. This is also why he is 
so open to our objectifying interventions. 

He, of course, does not have to answer for this subjective error which, 
whether it is avowed or not in his discourse, is immanent in the fact that he 
entered analysis and concluded the original pact involved in it. And we can 
still less neglect the subjectivity of this moment because it reveals the reason 
for what may be called the constitutive effects of transference, insofar as they 
are distinguished by an indication of reality from the constituted effects that 
follow them. 41 

Freud, let us recall, in discussing the feelings people relate to the transfer- 
ence, insisted on the need to discern in them a reality factor. He concluded 
that it would be taking undue advantage of the subject's docility to try to per- 
suade him in every case that these feelings are a mere transferential repetition 
of the neurosis. Now, since these real feelings manifest themselves as primary 
and since our own charm remains a matter of chance, there might seem to be 
some mystery here. 

But this mystery is solved when viewed from the vantage point of the phe- 
309 nomenology of the subject, insofar as the subject is constituted in the search 

for truth. We need but consider the traditional facts — which Buddhists pro- 
vide us with, although they are not the only ones — to recognize in this form 
of transference the characteristic error of existence, broken down by Buddhists 
into the following three headings: love, hate, and ignorance. It is therefore as 
a counter to the analytic movement that we shall understand their equivalence 
in what is called a positive transference at the outset — each one being shed 
light on by the other two in this existential aspect, as long as one does not except 
the third, which is usually omitted because of its proximity to the subject. 

I am alluding here to the invective with which someone called upon me to 
witness the lack of discretion shown by a certain work (which I have already 
cited too often) in its insane objectification of the play of the instincts in analy- 
sis, someone whose debt to me can be recognized by his use of the term "real" 
in conformity with mine. It was in the following words that he "unburdened 
his heart," as they say: "It is high time we put an end to the fraud that tends 
to perpetrate the belief that anything real whatsoever takes place during treat- 

The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis 255 

ment." Let us leave aside what has become of him, for alas, if analysis has not 
cured the dog's oral vice mentioned in the Scriptures, its state is worse than 
before: it is others' vomit that it laps up. 

This sally was not ill directed, since it sought in fact to distinguish between 
those elementary registers, whose foundations I have since laid, known as the 
symbolic, the imaginary, and the real — a distinction never previously made 
in psychoanalysis. 

Reality in analytic experience often, in fact, remains veiled in negative forms, 
but it is not that difficult to situate. 

Reality is encountered, for instance, in what we usually condemn as active 
interventions; but it would be an error to limit its definition in this way. 

For it is clear that the analyst's abstention — his refusal to respond — is also 
an element of reality in analysis. More exactly, the junction between the sym- 
bolic and the real lies in this negativity, insofar as it is pure — that is, detached 
from any particular motive. This follows from the fact that the analyst's non- 
action is founded on the knowledge affirmed in the principle that all that is 
real is rational, and on the resulting motive that it is up to the subject to find 310 

anew its measure. 

The fact remains that this abstention is not maintained indefinitely; when 
the subject's question assumes the form of true speech, we sanction it with our 
response; but I have shown that true speech already contains its own 
response — thus we are simply doubling his antiphon with our lay. What can 
this mean except that we do no more than give the subject's speech its dialec- 
tical punctuation? 

Thus we see the other moment — which I have already pointed out theo- 
retically — in which the symbolic and the real come together: in the function 
of time. It is worth dwelling for a moment on time 's impact on technique. 

Time plays a role in analytic technique in several ways. 

It presents itself first in the total length of an analysis, and concerns the 
meaning to be given to the term of the analysis, which is a question that must 
be addressed prior to examining that of the signs of its end. I shall touch on 
the problem of setting a time limit to an analysis. But it is already clear that its 
length can only be expected to be indefinite for the subject. 

This is true for two reasons that can only be distinguished from a dialecti- 
cal perspective: 

• The first, which is based on the limits of our field, and which confirms my 
remarks on the definition of its confines: we cannot predict how long a sub- 
ject's time for understanding will last, insofar as it includes a psychological 
factor that escapes us by its very nature. 

256 Ecrits 

• The second, which is a characteristic of the subject, owing to which setting 
a time limit to his analysis amounts to a spatializing projection in which he 
already finds himself alienated from himself: from the moment his truth's 
due date can be predicted — whatever may become of it in the intervening 
inter subjectivity — the fact is that the truth is already there; that is, we 
reestablish in the subject his original mirage insofar as he situates his truth 
in us and, by sanctioning this mirage with the weight of our authority, we 
set the analysis off on an aberrant path whose results will be impossible to 

3 1 1 This is precisely what happened in the famous case of the Wolf Man, and 
Freud so well understood its exemplary importance that he used the case to 
support his argument in his article on analysis, finite or indefinite. 42 

Setting in advance a time limit to an analysis, the first form of active inter- 
vention, inaugurated (propudor/) by Freud himself — regardless of the div- 
inatory (in the true sense of the term) 43 sureness the analyst may evince in 
following Freud's example — will invariably leave the subject alienated from 
his truth. 

We find confirmation of this point in two facts from the Wolf Man case: 

In the first place, despite the whole network of proofs demonstrating the 
historicity of the primal scene, and despite the conviction he displays con- 
cerning it — remaining imperturbable to the doubts Freud methodically cast 
on it in order to test him — the Wolf Man never managed to integrate his rec- 
ollection of the primal scene into his history. 

Secondly, the same patient later demonstrated his alienation in the most 
categorical way: in a paranoid form. 

It is true that another factor comes in here, through which reality inter- 
venes in the analysis — namely, the gift of money whose symbolic value I shall 
leave aside for another occasion, but whose import is already indicated in what 
I have said about the link between speech and the gift that constitutes primi- 
tive exchange. In this case, the gift of money is reversed by an initiative of 
Freud's in which — as in the frequency with which he returns to the case — we 
can recognize his unresolved subjectivization of the problems this case left in 
abeyance. And no one doubts but that this was a triggering factor of the Wolf 

312 Man's psychosis, though without really being able to say why. 

Don't we realize, nevertheless, that allowing a subject to be nourished at 
the expense of the analytic academy in return for the services he rendered to 
science as a case (for it was in fact through a group collection that the Wolf 
Man was supported) is also to decisively alienate him from his truth? 

The material furnished in the supplementary analysis of the Wolf Man 

The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis 25y 

entrusted to Ruth Mack Brunswick illustrates the responsibility of the previ- 
ous treatment with Freud by demonstrating my remarks on the respective places 
of speech and language in psychoanalytic mediation. 

What's more, it is from the perspective of speech and language that one can 
grasp how Mack Brunswick took her bearings not at all badly in her delicate 
position in relation to the transference. (The reader will be reminded of the 
very "wall" in my metaphor, as it figures in one of the Wolf Man's dreams, the 
wolves in the key dream displaying their eagerness to get around it . . .) Those 
who attend my seminar know all this, and others can try their hand at it. 44 

What I want to do is touch on another aspect of the function of time in ana- 
lytic technique that is currently a matter of much debate. I wish to say some- 
thing about the length of sessions. 

Here again it is a question of an element that manifestly belongs to reality, 
since it represents our work time, and viewed from this angle it falls within 
the purview of professional regulations that may be considered predominant. 

But its subjective impact is no less important — and, first of all, on the ana- 
lyst. The taboo surrounding recent discussion of this element is sufficient proof 
that the analytic group's subjectivity is hardly liberated on this question; and 
the scrupulous, not to say obsessive, character that observing a standard takes 
on for some if not most analysts — a standard whose historical and geograph- 
ical variations nevertheless seem to bother no one — is a clear sign of the exis- 
tence of a problem that analysts are reluctant to broach because they realize 
to what extent it would entail questioning the analyst's function. 

Secondly, no one can ignore its importance to the subject in analysis. The 
unconscious, it is said — in a tone that is all the more knowing the less the 
speaker is capable of justifying what he means — the unconscious needs time 
to reveal itself. I quite agree. But I ask: how is this time to be measured? By 313 

what Alexandre Koyre calls "the universe of precision"? We obviously live in 
such a universe, but its advent for man is relatively recent, since it goes back 
precisely to Huyghens' clock — in other words, to 1 659 — and the discontent 
of modern man precisely does not indicate that this precision serves him as a 
liberating factor. Is this time — the time characteristic of the fall of heavy bod- 
ies — in some way sacred in the sense that it corresponds to the time of the 
stars as it was fixed for all eternity by God — who, as Lichtenberg tells us, winds 
our sundials? Perhaps we could acquire a somewhat better idea of time by com- 
paring the amount of time required for the creation of a symbolic object with 
the moment of inattention in which we drop it. 

Whatever the case may be, if it is problematic to characterize what we do 
during this time as work, I believe I have made it quite clear that we can char- 
acterize what the patient does during this time as work. 

258 Ecrits 

But the reality, whatever it may be, of this time consequently takes on a 
localized value: that of receiving the product of this labor. 

We play a recording role by serving a function which is fundamental in any 
symbolic exchange — that of gathering what do kamo, man in his authenticity, 
calls "the lasting word." 

A witness blamed for the subject's sincerity, trustee of the record of his dis- 
course, reference attesting to its accuracy, guarantor of its honesty, keeper of 
its testament, scrivener of its codicils, the analyst is something of a scribe. 

But he remains the master of the truth of which this discourse constitutes 
the progress. As I have said, it is the analyst above all who punctuates its dialec- 
tic. And here he is apprehended as the judge of the value of this discourse. 
This has two consequences. 

The ending of a session cannot but be experienced by the subject as a punc- 
tuation of his progress. We know how he calculates the moment of its arrival 
in order to tie it to his own timetable, or even to his evasive maneuvers, and 
how he anticipates it by weighing it like a weapon and watching out for it as 
he would for a place of shelter. 

It is a fact, which can be plainly seen in the study of manuscripts of sym- 
bolic writings, whether the Bible or the Chinese canonical texts, that the absence 
314 of punctuation in them is a source of ambiguity. Punctuation, once inserted, 

establishes the meaning; changing the punctuation renews or upsets it; and 
incorrect punctuation distorts it. 

The indifference with which ending a session after a fixed number of min- 
utes has elapsed interrupts the subject's moments of haste can be fatal to the 
conclusion toward which his discourse was rushing headlong, and can even 
set a misunderstanding in stone, if not furnish a pretext for a retaliatory ruse. 

Beginners seem more struck by the effects of this impact than others — which 
gives one the impression that for others it is just a routine. 

The neutrality we manifest in strictly applying the rule that sessions be of 
a specified length obviously keeps us on the path of non-action. 

But this nonaction has a limit, otherwise we would never intervene at all — 
so why make intervening impossible at this point, thereby privileging it? 

The danger that arises if this point takes on an obsessive value for the ana- 
lyst lies simply in the fact that it lends itself to the subject's connivance, a con- 
nivance that is available not only to the obsessive, although it takes on a special 
force for him, owing precisely to his impression that he is working. The sense 
of forced labor that envelops everything for this subject, including even his 
leisure activities, is only too well known. 

This sense is sustained by his subjective relation to the master insofar as it 
is the master's death that he awaits. 

The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis 25$ 

Indeed, the obsessive manifests one of the attitudes that Hegel did not develop 
in his master/ slave dialectic. The slave slips away when faced with the risk of 
death, when the opportunity to acquire mastery is offered to him in a struggle 
for pure prestige. But since he knows he is mortal, he also knows that the mas- 
ter can die. Hence he can accept to work for the master and give up jouissance 
in the meantime; and, unsure as to when the master will die, he waits. 

This is the inter subjective reason for both the doubt and procrastination 
that are obsessive character traits. 

Meanwhile, all his work is governed by this intention and thus becomes dou- 
bly alienating. For not only is the subject's creation [oeuvre] taken away from 
him by another — the constitutive relation of all labor — but the subject's 
recognition of his own essence in his creation, in which this labor finds its jus- 
tification, eludes him no less, for he himself "is not in it." He is in the antici- 
pated moment of the master's death, at which time he will begin to live; but in 
the meantime he identifies with the master as dead and is thus already dead 

He nevertheless strives to fool the master by demonstrating his good inten- 3 1 5 

tions through hard work. This is what the dutiful children of the analytic cat- 
echism express in their crude language by saying that the subject 's ego* is trying 
to seduce his superego.* 

This intrasubjective formulation is immediately demystified if we under- 
stand it in the analytic relationship, where the subject's "working through" is 
in fact employed to seduce the analyst. 

And it is no accident that, once the dialectical progress begins to approach 
the challenging of the ego's* intentions in our subjects, the fantasy of the ana- 
lyst's death — often experienced in the form of fear or even of anxiety — never 
fails to be produced. 

And the subject then sets off again in an even more demonstrative elabo- 
ration of his "good will." 

Can there be any doubt, then, about what happens when the master mani- 
fests disdain for the product of such work? The subject's resistance may become 
completely disconcerted. 

From then on, his alibi — hitherto unconscious — begins to unveil itself to 
him, and we see him passionately seek the why and wherefore of so much effort. 

I would not say so much about it if I had not been convinced — in experi- 
menting with what have been called my "short sessions," at a stage in my career 
that is now over — that I was able to bring to light in a certain male subject fan- 
tasies of anal pregnancy, as well as a dream of its resolution by Cesarean sec- 
tion, in a time frame in which I would normally still have been listening to his 
speculations on Dostoyevsky's artistry. 

z6o Ecrits 

In any case, I am not here to defend this procedure, but to show that it has 
a precise dialectical meaning in analytic technique. 45 

And I am not the only one to have remarked that it bears a certain resem- 
blance to the technique known as Zen, which is applied to bring about the sub- 
ject 's revelation in the traditional ascesis of certain Far Eastern schools. 

316 Without going to the extremes to which this technique is taken, since they 
would be contrary to certain of the limitations imposed by our own, a discreet 
application of its basic principle in analysis seems much more acceptable to me 
than certain methods of the so-called analysis of the resistances, insofar as such 
an application does not in itself entail any danger of alienating the subject. 

For it shatters discourse only in order to bring forth speech. 

Here we are, then, up against the wall — up against the wall of language. 
We are in our place here, that is, on the same side of the wall as the patient, 
and it is off this wall — which is the same for him as for us — that we shall try 
to respond to the echo of his speech. 

There is nothing that is anything but outer darkness to us beyond this wall. 
Does this mean that we thoroughly master the situation? Certainly not, and 
on this point Freud has bequeathed us his testament regarding the negative 
therapeutic reaction. 

The key to this mystery, it is said, is in the insistence [instance] of a primary 
masochism — in other words, in a pure manifestation of the death instinct whose 
enigma Freud propounded for us at the height of his career. 

We cannot discount it, any more than I can postpone examining it here. 

For I note that two different groups join forces in refusing to accept this 
culminating point of Freud's doctrine: those whose approach to analysis 
revolves around a conception of the ego* which I have shown to be erroneous, 
and those who, like Reich, take the principle of seeking an ineffable organic 
expression beyond speech so far that, like him, in order to free it from its armor, 
they might symbolize, as he does, the orgasmic induction that, like him, they 
expect from analysis in the superimposition of the two vermicular forms whose 
stupefying schema is found in his book, Character Analysis. 

Once I have demonstrated the profound relationship uniting the notion of 
the death instinct to problems of speech, we will see that a rigorous logic gov- 
erning intellectual productions underlies this joining of forces. 

As even a moment's reflection shows, the notion of the death instinct 
involves a basic irony, since its meaning has to be sought in the conjunction 

317 of two opposing terms: "instinct" which, in its broadest acceptation, is the law 
that regulates the successive stages of a behavioral cycle in order to accom- 
plish a life function; and "death" which appears first of all as the destruction 
of life. 

The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis 261 

Nevertheless, the definition of life provided by Bichat at the dawn of biol- 
ogy as the set of forces that resist death, and the most modern conception of 
life — found in Cannon's notion of homeostasis — as the function of a system 
maintaining its own equilibrium, are there to remind us that life and death 
come together in a relation of polar opposites at the very heart of phenomena 
that people associate with life. 

Hence the congruence of the contrasting terms of the death instinct with 
the phenomena of repetition, Freud in fact relating the former to the latter 
with the term "automatism," would not cause difficulty were it simply a ques- 
tion of a biological notion. 

But, as we all know, it is not, which is what makes the problem a stumbling 
block to so many of us. The fact that numerous analysts balk at the apparent 
incompatibility of these terms might well be worth our attention, for it man- 
ifests a dialectical innocence that would probably be disconcerted by the clas- 
sical problem posed to semantics in the determinative statement, "a hamlet on 
the Ganges," by which Hindu aesthetics illustrates the second form of the res- 
onances of language. 46 

This notion of the death instinct must be broached through its resonances 
in what I will call the poetics of Freud 's work — a first avenue for getting at 
its meaning, and a dimension that is essential for understanding the dialecti- 
cal repercussion of its origins at the apogee marked by this notion. It should 
be recalled, for example, that Freud tells us his vocation for medicine came to 
him during a public reading of Goethe 's famous "Hymn to Nature" — that is, 
in a text that was brought to light by one of Goethe 's friends, which the poet, 
in the twilight of his life, agreed to recognize as a putative child of the most 
youthful effusions of his pen. 

At the other end of Freud's life, we see in the article on analysis considered 
as finite or indefinite that he explicitly relates his new conception to the con- 
flict of the two principles governing the alternation of all life according to 
Empedocles of Agrigentum in the fifth century B.C. — that is, in the pre-Socratic 
era in which nature and mind were not distinguished. 

These two facts are a sufficient indication to us that what is at stake here is 
a myth of the dyad, whose exposition by Plato is, moreover, mentioned in 
Beyond the Pleasure Principle, a myth that can only be understood in the sub- 
jectivity of modern man by raising it to the negativity of the judgment in which 
it is inscribed. 

This is to say that, just as the repetition automatism — which is just as com- 
pletely misunderstood by those who wish to separate its two terms — aims at 
nothing but the historicizing temporality of the experience of transference, so 
the death instinct essentially expresses the limit of the subject's historical func- 

z6z Ecrits 

tion. This limit is death — not as the possible end date of the individual's life, 
nor as the subject's empirical certainty, but, as Heidegger puts it, as that "pos- 
sibility which is the subject's ownmost, which is unconditional, unsurpassable, 
certain, and as such indeterminable" — the subject being understood as 
defined by his historicity. 

Indeed, this limit is present at every instant in what is finished in this his- 
tory. It represents the past in its real form; it is not the physical past whose exis- 
tence is abolished, nor the epic past as it has become perfected in the work of 
memory, nor the historical past in which man finds the guarantor of his future, 
but rather the past which manifests itself in an inverted form in repetition. 47 

This is the dead person [le mort] subjectivity takes as its partner in the triad 
instituted by its mediation in the universal conflict of Philia^ love, and Neikos^ 

Thus there is no further need to resort to the outdated notion of primary 
masochism to explain repetitive games in which subjectivity simultaneously 
masters its dereliction and gives birth to the symbol. 

These are occultation games which Freud, in a flash of genius, presented 
319 to us so that we might see in them that the moment at which desire is human- 

ized is also that at which the child is born into language. 

We can now see that the subject here does not simply master his depriva- 
tion by assuming it — he raises his desire to a second power. For his action 
destroys the object that it causes to appear and disappear by bringing about its 
absence and presence in advance. His action thus negativizes the force field of 
desire in order to become its own object to itself. And this object, being imme- 
diately embodied in the symbolic pair of two elementary exclamations, 
announces the subject's diachronic integration of the dichotomy of 
phonemes, whose synchronic structure the existing language offers up for him 
to assimilate; the child thus begins to become engaged in the system of the 
concrete discourse of those around him by reproducing more or less approx- 
imately in his Fort! and Da! the terms he receives from them. 

Fort! Da! It is already when quite alone that the desire of the human child 
becomes the desire of another, of an alter ego who dominates him and whose 
object of desire is henceforth his own affliction. 

Should the child now address an imaginary or real partner, he will see that 
this partner too obeys the negativity of his discourse, and since his call has the 
effect of making the partner slip away, he will seek to bring about the rever- 
sal that brings the partner back to his desire through a banishing summons. 

Thus the symbol first manifests itself as the killing of the thing, and this 
death results in the endless perpetuation of the subject's desire. 

The first symbol in which we recognize humanity in its vestiges is the bur- 

The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis 263 

ial, and death as a means can be recognized in every relation in which man is 
born into the life of his history. 

This is the only life that endures and is true, since it is transmitted without 
being lost in a tradition passed on from subject to subject. It is impossible not 
to see how loftily this life transcends that inherited by the animal, in which 
the individual fades into the species, since no memorial distinguishes its 
ephemeral appearance from the appearance that reproduces it in the invari- 
ability of the type. Indeed, apart from the hypothetical mutations of the phy- 
lum that must be integrated by a subjectivity that man is still only approaching 
from the outside, nothing, except the experiments in which man uses it, dis- 
tinguishes a particular rat from rats in general, a horse from horses, nothing 
except the amorphous passage from life to death — whereas Empedocles, by 
throwing himself into Mount Etna, leaves forever present in the memory of 320 

men the symbolic act of his being-toward-death. 

Man's freedom is entirely circumscribed within the constitutive triangle of 
the following: the renunciation he imposes on the other's desire by threaten- 
ing to kill the other in order to enjoy the fruits of the other's serfdom, the sac- 
rifice of his life that he agrees to for the reasons that give human life its measure, 
and the suicidal abnegation of the vanquished party that deprives the master 
of his victory and leaves him to his inhuman solitude. 

Of these figures of death, the third is the supreme detour by which the imme- 
diate particularity of desire, reconquering its ineffable form, refinds in nega- 
tion a final triumph. And we must recognize its meaning, for as analysts we 
deal with it. It is not, in fact, a perversion of instinct, but rather a desperate 
affirmation of life that is the purest form we can find of the death instinct. 

The subject says "No!" to this darting game of inter subjectivity in which 
desire gains recognition for a moment only to lose itself in a will that is the 
other's will. The subject patiently withdraws his precarious life from the churn- 
ing aggregations of the symbol's Eros in order to finally affirm life in a speech- 
less curse. 

When we want to get at what was before the serial games of speech in the 
subject and what is prior to the birth of symbols, we find it in death, from 
which his existence derives all the meaning it has. Indeed, he asserts himself 
with respect to others as a death wish; if he identifies with the other, it is by 
freezing him in the metamorphosis of his essential image, and no being is ever 
conjured up by him except among the shadows of death. 

To say that this mortal meaning reveals in speech a center that is outside of 
language is more than a metaphor — it manifests a structure. This structure 
differs from the spatialization of the circumference or sphere with which some 
people like to schematize the limits of the living being and its environment: it 

264 Ecrits 

corresponds rather to the relational group that symbolic logic designates topo- 
logically as a ring. 

If I wanted to give an intuitive representation of it, it seems that I would 

321 have to resort not to the two-dimensionality of a zone, but rather to the three- 
dimensional form of a torus, insofar as a torus' peripheral exteriority and cen- 
tral exteriority constitute but one single region. 48 

This schema represents the endless circularity of the dialectical process that 
occurs when the subject achieves his solitude, whether in the vital ambiguity 
of immediate desire or in the full assumption of his being-toward-death. 

But we can simultaneously see that the dialectic is not individual, and that 
the question of the termination of an analysis is that of the moment at which 
the subject's satisfaction is achievable in the satisfaction of all — that is, of all 
those it involves in a human undertaking. Of all the undertakings that have 
been proposed in this century, the psychoanalyst's is perhaps the loftiest, 
because it mediates in our time between the care-ridden man and the subject 
of absolute knowledge. This is also why it requires a long subjective ascesis, 
indeed one that never ends, since the end of training analysis itself is not sep- 
arable from the subject's engagement in his practice. 

Let whoever cannot meet at its horizon the subjectivity of his time give it 
up then. For how could he who knows nothing of the dialectic that engages 
him in a symbolic movement with so many lives possibly make his being the 
axis of those lives? Let him be well acquainted with the whorl into which his 
era draws him in the ongoing enterprise of Babel, and let him be aware of his 
function as an interpreter in the strife of languages. As for the darkness of the 
mundus around which the immense tower is coiled, let him leave to mystical 
vision the task of seeing the putrescent serpent of life rise up there on an ever- 
lasting rod. 

Allow me to laugh if these remarks are accused of turning the meaning of 
Freud's work away from the biological foundations he would have wished for 
it toward the cultural references with which it is rife. I do not wish to preach 
to you the doctrine of the b factor, designating the first, nor of the c factor, 
designating the second. All I have tried to do is remind you of the neglected 
a, b, c structure of language, and to teach you to spell once again the forgot- 
ten ABC's of speech. 

322 For what recipe would guide you in a technique that is composed of the 
first and derives its effects from the second, if you did not recognize the field 
of the one and the function of the other? 

Psychoanalytic experience has rediscovered in man the imperative of the 
Word as the law that has shaped him in its image. It exploits the poetic func- 
tion of language to give his desire its symbolic mediation. May this experience 

The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis 265 

finally enable you to understand that the whole reality of its effects lies in the 
gift of speech 49 ; for it is through this gift that all reality has come to man and 
through its ongoing action that he sustains reality. 

If the domain defined by this gift of speech must be sufficient for both your 
action and your knowledge, it will also be sufficient for your devotion. For it 
offers the latter a privileged field. 

When the Devas, the men, and the Asuras were finishing their novitiate 
with Prajapati, as we read in the first Brahmana of the fifth lesson of the Bri- 
hadaranyaka Upanishad, they begged him, "Speak to us." 

"Da" said Prajapati, god of thunder. "Did you hear me?" And the Devas 
answered, saying: "Thou hast said to us: Damyata, master yourselves" — the 
sacred text meaning that the powers above are governed by the law of speech. 

"Da" said Prajapati, god of thunder. "Did you hear me?" And the men 
answered, saying: "Thou hast said to us: Datta, give" — the sacred text mean- 
ing that men recognize each other by the gift of speech. 

"Da" said Prajapati, god of thunder. "Did you hear me?" And the Asuras 
answered, saying: "Thou hast said to us: Dayadhvam, be merciful" — the sacred 
text meaning that the powers below resound [resonnent] 50 to the invocation of 

That, continues the text, is what the divine voice conveys in the thunder: 
Submission, gift, grace. Da da da. 

For Prajapati replies to all: "You have heard me." 


1 . See "Logical Time," Ecrits 1 966, 1 97-2 1 3. Michael Balint written that a strengthening of 

2. Ferenczi, "Confusion of Tongues the ego* should be beneficial to a subject suf- 
between the Adult and the Child," IJP XXX, fering from ejaculatio praecox because it would 
4 (1949): 225-30. permit him to prolong the suspension of his 

3. (Added in 1966:) The preceding para- desire? But how can we think this, when it is 
graph has been rewritten. precisely to the fact that his desire depends on 

4. (Added in 1966:) Previously I had writ- the imaginary function of the ego* that the sub- 
ten: "in psychological matters." ject owes the short-circuiting of the act — which 

5. (Added in 1966:) The preceding para- psychoanalytic clinical experience clearly 
graph has been rewritten. shows to be intimately related to narcissistic 

6. This is the crux of a deviation that con- identification with the partner. 

cerns both practice and theory. For to identify 7. This in the same work I praised at the end 

the ego* with the subject's self-discipline is to of my introduction (added in 1966). It is clear 

confuse imaginary isolation with mastery of the in what follows that aggressiveness is only a 

instincts; here one is liable to make errors of side effect of analytic frustration, though it can 

judgment in the conduct of the treatment — be reinforced by a certain type of intervention; 

such as trying to strengthen the ego* in many as such, it is not the reason for the frustra- 

neuroses that are caused by its overly strong tion/ regression pair, 
structure, which is a dead end. Hasn't my friend 8. GW XII, 7 1 ; Cinq psychanalyses (Paris: 




PUF, 1 954), 356, a weak translation of the term. 

9. GJFXII, 72, £hl, the last few lines. The 
concept of Nachtraglichkeit is underlined in the 
footnote. Cinq psychanalyses, 356, fill. 

10. See Ecrits 1966, 204-10. 

11. Freud uses the term in an article acces- 
sible to even the least demanding of French 
readers, since it came out in the Revue Neu- 
rologique, a journal generally found on book- 
shelves in hospital staff rooms. The blunder 
exposed here illustrates, among other things, 
how the said authority I saluted on page 246 [in 
Ecrits 1966] measures up to his leadership.* 

12. (Added in 1966:) Even if he is speaking 
to everyone in general and no one in particu- 
lar [a la cantonade]. He addresses that Other 
(with a capital O) whose theoretical basis I 
have since consolidated, and which demands a 
certain epoche in returning to the term to which 
I limited myself at that time: that of "inter- 

1 3. 1 am borrowing these terms from the late 
and sorely missed Edouard Pichon who, both 
in the directions he gave for the advent of our 
discipline and in those that guided him in the 
murky shadows of persons, showed a divina- 
tion that I can only attribute to his practice of 

14. (Added in 1966:) This reference to the 
aporia of Christianity announced a more pre- 
cise one at its Jansenist climax: a reference to 
Pascal whose wager, still intact, forced me to 
take up the whole question again in order to get 
at what it conceals that is inestimable to psy- 
choanalysts^ — which is still, at this date (June 
1966), unrevealed. 

15. (Added in 1966:) This remark was made 
by one of the psychoanalysts most involved in 
the debate. 

16. See Gegenwunschtraume in the Traum- 
deutung, GJV\l, 156-57 and 163-64; SEW, 151 
and 157-58. 

17. (Added in 1966:) In order to evaluate the 
results of these procedures the reader should 
become thoroughly acquainted with the notes 
found in Emile BorePs book Le Hasard (Paris: 
F. Alcan, 1914), which I recommended already 
at that time, on the triviality of the "remark- 
able" results obtained by beginning in this way 
with just any number. 

18. See C. I. Oberndorf, "Unsatisfactory 
Results of Psychoanalytic Therapy," PQXDL 
(1950): 393-407. 

1 9. See, among others, Do Kamo: Person and 
Myth in the Melanesian World, by Maurice 
Leenhardt [trans. Basia Miller Gulati (Chicago: 
University of Chicago Press, 1979)], chapters 
IX and X. 

20. Jules H. Masserman, "Language, Behav- 
iour and Dynamic Psychiatry," 7/PXXV, 1-2 
(1944): 1-8. 

2 1 . Aphorism of Lichtenberg's: "A madman 
who imagines himself a prince differs from the 
prince who is in fact a prince only because the 
former is a negative prince, while the latter is 
a negative madman. Considered without their 
sign, they are alike." 

22. To obtain an immediate subjective con- 
firmation of this remark of Hegel's, it is enough 
to have seen in the recent epidemic a blind rab- 
bit in the middle of a road, lifting the emptiness 
of its vision changed into a gaze toward the set- 
ting sun: it was human to the point of tragedy. 

23. The lines before and after this term will 
show what I mean by it. 

24. Reich's error, to which I shall return, 
caused him to mistake a coat of arms for armor. 

25. See Claude Levi-Strauss, "Language 
and the Analysis of Social Laws," American 
Anthropologist LIII, 2 (April-June 1951): 

26. (Added in 1966:) The last four para- 
graphs have been rewritten. 

27. (Added in 1966:) The last two para- 
graphs have been rewritten. 

28. On the Galilean hypothesis and 
Huyghens' clock, see Alexandre Koyre, "An 
Experiment in Measurement," Proceedings of the 
American Philosophical SocietyXCVII, 2 (April 
1953): 222-37. (Added in 1966:) The last two 
paragraphs of my text have been rewritten. 

29. (Added in 1966:) I have developed these 
indications as the opportunity presented itself. 
Four paragraphs rewritten. 

30. "The Theory of Symbolism," British 
Journal of Psychology IX, 2. Reprinted in his 
Papers on Psycho-Analysis (Boston: Beacon, 
1961) [the page number given in the text cor- 
responds to this edition]. See [Lacan's article: 
"A la memoire d 'Ernest Jones: Sur sa theorie 

The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis 267 

du symbolisme," La Psychanalyse V (1960): 
1-20] Ecrits 1966, 697-717. 

31. I am referring here to the teaching of 
Abhinavagupta in the tenth century. See Dr. 
Kami Chandra Pandey, "Indian Aesthetics," 
Chowkamba Sanskrit Series, Studies, II 
(Benares: 1950). 

32. Ernst Kris, "Ego Psychology and Inter- 
pretation in Psychoanalytic Therapy," PQ 
XX, 1 (1951): 15-29; see the passage quoted on 
pages 27-28. 

33. (Added in 1966:) Paragraph rewritten. 

34. This for the use of whoever can still 
understand it after looking in the Littre for jus- 
tification of a theory that makes speech into an 
"action beside," by the translation that it gives 
of the Greekparabole (why not "action toward" 
instead?) — without having noticed at the same 
time that, if this word nevertheless designates 
what it means, it is because of sermonizing 
usage that, since the tenth century, has reserved 
"Word" [verbe] for the Logos incarnate. 

35. Each language has its own form of 
transmission, and since the legitimacy of such 
research is founded on its success, nothing 
stops us from drawing a moral from it. Con- 
sider, for example, the maxim I chose as an epi- 
graph for the preface to this paper. [En 
particulier, il ne faudra pas oublier que la sepa- 
ration en embryologie, anatomie, physiologie, 
psychologies sociologies clinique n 'existepas dans 
la nature et qu 'il nyaqu 'une discipline: la neu- 
robiologie a laquelle V observation nous oblige 
d'ajouter Vepithete ^/'humaine en ce qui nous 
concerned Since it is so laden with redundan- 
cies, its style may strike you as a bit lacklus- 
ter. But lighten it of them and its audacity will 
arouse the enthusiasm it deserves. Hear ye: 
"Parfaupe ouclaspa nannanbryle anaphi ologi 
psysocline ixispad anlana — egnia kune n'rbiol' 
oblijouter tetumaine ennouconc ..." Here the 
purity of its message is finally laid bare. Its 
meaning raises its head here, the owning of 
being [I'aveu de I'etre] begins, and our victo- 
rious intelligence bequeaths to the future its 
immortal stamp. 

36. "The Therapeutic Effect of Inexact 
Interpretation: A Contribution to the Theory 
of Suggestion," 7/PXII, 4 (1931): 397-41 1. 

37. "Silence and Verbalization: A Supple- 

ment to the Theory of the 'Analytic Rule,' " 
7/PXXX, 1(1949): 21-30. 

38. Here equivalent to my mind to the term 
Zwangsbefiirchtung [obsessive or compulsive 
fear or apprehension], which should be broken 
down into its component elements without los- 
ing any of the semantic resources of the Ger- 
man language. 

39. (Added in 1966:) Two paragraphs 

40. This term refers to the custom, of Celtic 
origin and still practiced by certain Bible sects 
in America, of allowing a couple engaged to be 
married, or even a passing guest and the fam- 
ily's daughter, to spend the night together in 
the same bed, provided that they keep their 
clothes on. The word derives its meaning from 
the fact that the girl is usually wrapped up in 
sheets. (Quincey speaks of it. See also the book 
by Aurand le Jeune on this practice among the 
Amish.) Thus the myth of Tristan and Isolde, 
and even the complex that it represents, now 
underwrites the analyst in his quest for the soul 
destined for mystifying nuptials via the exten- 
uation of its instinctual fantasies. 

41 . (Added in 1966:) What I have since des- 
ignated as the basis of transference — namely, 
the "subject-supposed-to-know" — is thus 
already defined here. 

42. This is the correct translation of the two 
terms that have been rendered, with that unfail- 
ing flair for mistranslation I mentioned earlier, 
by "terminated analysis and interminable 

43. See Aulus GelWus, Attic Nights, II, 4: "In 
a trial, when it is a question of knowing who 
shall be given the task of presenting the accu- 
sation, and when two or more people volunteer 
for this office, the judgment by which the tri- 
bunal names the accuser is called divination . . . 
This word comes from the fact that since 
accuser and accused are two correlative terms 
that cannot continue to exist without each other, 
and since the type of judgment in question here 
presents an accused without an accuser, it is nec- 
essary to resort to divination in order to find 
what the trial does not provide, what it leaves 
still unknown, that is, the accuser." 

44. (Added in 1966:) Two paragraphs 



45. (Added in 1966:) Whether a chipped 
stone or a cornerstone, my forte is that I haven't 
given in on this point. 

46. This is the form called Laksanalaksana. 

47. (Added in 1966:) These four words [ren- 
verse dans la repetition], in which my latest for- 
mulation of repetition is found (1966), have 
been substituted for an improper recourse to 
the "eternal return" [toujours present dans Veter- 
nelretour], which was all that I could get across 
at that time. 

48. (Added in 1966:) These are premises of 
the topology I have been putting into practice 
over the past five years. 

49. It should be clear that it is not a ques- 
tion here of the "gifts" that novices are always 
supposed not to have, but of a tone that they 
are, indeed, missing more often than they 
should be. 

50. (Added in 1966:) Ponge writes it as fol- 
lows: reson. 

Variations on the Standard Treatment 323 

This title, the counterpart of another title promoting the unheard-of heading, 
"standard treatment," was assigned to me in 1953 as part of a project for 
which a committee of psychoanalysts was responsible. Selected from various 
tendencies due to their competence in the area, my friend Henri Ey had dele- 
gated to them the general responsibility he himself had received for the vol- 
ume on therapeutic methods in psychiatry, to be published in the Encyclopedic 

I accepted this role in order to investigate the scientific foundation of the 
said treatment, the only foundation on which the implicit reference to a devi- 
ation that such a title offered me could make any sense. 

A deviation that was all too palpable, in effect. At least I believe I suc- 
ceeded in raising a question about it, even though this undoubtedly ran 
counter to the intentions of its promoters. 

Are we to think that the question was resolved by the removal of my arti- 
cle [from subsequent editions of the encyclopedia], quickly explained, by the 
abovementioned committee, as part of the ordinary updating of this kind of 

Many people saw it as the sign of a certain precipitation, which would be 
understandable in this case by the very way in which a certain majority consid- 
ered itself to be defined by my criticism. (The article was published in 1955.) 

A Bat Question: Examining It in the Light of Day 

"Variations on the Standard Treatment" — this title constitutes a pleonasm, 
though not a simple one: 1 based on a contradiction, it is nonetheless lame. Is 
this twisting due to the fact that it is addressed to a medical audience? Or is it 324 

a distortion intrinsic to the question? 

This stopping point serves as an entry point into the problem, since it 
recalls what the public senses: namely, that psychoanalysis is not like any 
other form of therapeutics. For the term "variations" implies neither the 
adapting of the treatment to the "variety" of cases, in accordance with empir- 
ical or even clinical criteria, 2 nor a reference to the "variables" by which the 
field of psychoanalysis is distinguished, but rather a concern, which may 
even be hypersensitive, for purity in the means and ends, which allows us to 
foresee a more meritorious status than the label presented here. 

At stake here is clearly a rigor that is in some sense ethical, without which 
any treatment, even if it is filled with psychoanalytic knowledge, can only 
amount to psychotherapy. 

270 Ecrits 

This rigor would require a formalization, by which I mean a theoretical 
formalization, which has hardly been provided to date because it has been con- 
fused with a practical formalism — that is, a [set of rules] regarding what is 
done and what is not done. 

This is why it is not inauspicious to start from the "theory of therapeutic 
criteria" in order to shed light on this situation. 

Certainly, the psychoanalyst's lack of concern about the basics required 
for the use of statistics is only equaled by that still found in medicine. It is, 
however, more innocent in the analyst's case. For he makes less of assessments 
as cursory as "improved," "much improved," and "cured," being warned 
against them by a discipline that knows how to isolate haste in concluding as 
an element that is in and of itself questionable. 

Clearly advised by Freud to closely examine the effects in his experience 
of the danger sufficiently announced by the term furor sanandi, he does not, 
in the end, wish to appear to be motivated by it. 

While he thus views cure as an added benefit [la guerison comme benefice de 

surcroit] of psychoanalytic treatment, he is wary of any misuse of the desire to 

325 cure. This is so ingrained in him that, when an innovation in technique is based 

upon this desire, he worries deep inside and even reacts inside the analytic 

group by raising the automatic question: "Is that still psychoanalysis?" 

This point may appear to be tangential to the question at hand. But its import 
is precisely to encircle this question with a line which, while barely visible from 
the outside, constitutes the inner supporter of a circle, without the latter ceas- 
ing for all that to present himself as if nothing there separated him. 

In this silence, which is the privilege of undisputed truths, psychoanalysts 
find the refuge that makes them impermeable to all criteria other than those 
of a dynamic, a topography, and an economy that they are incapable of justi- 
fying to those outside. 

Hence no recognition of psychoanalysis, as either a profession or a science, 
can occur except by hiding a principle of extraterritoriality which it is as impos- 
sible for the psychoanalyst to give up as it is for him not to deny. This obliges 
him to place all validation of its problems under the heading of dual mem- 
bership and to arm himself with the postures of inscrutability adopted by the 
bat in the fable. 

All discussion of the present question thus begins with a misunderstand- 
ing, which is further heightened when it is backlit by a paradox from the inside. 

This paradox is clearly introduced by what all analytic writers express, the 
most authorized affirming it no less than the others, regarding analysis' ther- 
apeutic criteria — namely, that the more stridently we demand a theoretical 
reference the more these criteria vanish. This is a matter of serious concern, 

Variations on the Standard Treatment zyi 

when theory is alleged to give treatment its status. More serious is when, at 
such times, it suddenly becomes abundantly clear that the most widely 
accepted terms are utterly useless except as indices of inadequacy or as screens 
for incompetence. 

To appreciate this it suffices to read the papers given at the last Congress 
of the International Psychoanalytical Association, held in London [on July 
27, 1953]. These papers warrant being included in our file — all of them and 
each of them in its entirety. 3 1 will cite a measured assessment from one of 
them, the one by Edward Glover: 

About twenty years ago, I circulated a questionnaire with the intention 326 

of ascertaining what were the actual technical practices and working 
standards of analysts in this country [Great Britain]. Full replies were 
obtained from twenty-four of twenty-nine practising members, from the 
examination of which it transpired [sic] that on only six out of the sixty- 
three points raised was there complete agreement. Only one of these six 
points could be regarded as fundamental, viz., the necessity of analysing 
the transference; the others concerned such lesser matters as the inad- 
visability of accepting presents, avoidance of the use of technical terms 
during analysis, avoidance of social contact, abstention from answering 
questions, objection to preliminary injunctions and, interestingly 
enough, payment for all nonattendances. 4 

This survey taken long ago derives its value from the quality of the practi- 
tioners to whom it was addressed, since they still constituted a small elite at 
that time. Glover only mentions it here due to the urgency, which has now 
become public, of what had before been merely a personal need — namely (and 
this is the title of his article), to define the "Therapeutic Criteria of Psycho- 
Analysis." The major obstacle to doing so is found, in his view, in fundamental 
theoretical divergences: 

We need not go afield to find psycho-analytical societies riven by such 
differences, with extreme groups holding mutually incompatible views, 
the opposing sections being held in uneasy alliance by "middle groups" 
whose members, as is the habit of eclectics the world over, compensate 
themselves for their absence of originality by extracting virtue from their 
eclecticism, maintaining, either implicitly or explicitly, that, whether or 
not principles differ, scientific truth lies only in compromise. Despite 
these eclectic efforts to maintain a united front to the scientific or psy- 
chological public, it is obvious that in certain fundamental respects the 

zyz Ecrits 

327 techniques practised by the opposing groups must be as different as chalk 
from cheese. 5 

Moreover, the author cited has no illusions about his chances of attenuat- 
ing these discordances at the plenary Congress he is addressing, due to the 
lack of any critique of the 

sedulously cultivated assumptions that participants in such discussions 
hold roughly the same views, speak the same technical language, follow 
identical systems of diagnosis, prognosis, and selection of cases, [and] 
practise approximately the same technical procedures [...]. 
Not one of these assumptions will bear close investigation. 6 

As it would require ten full pages of this encyclopedia to list merely those 
articles and books in which the most widely recognized authorities confirm 
this view, any attempt to resort to philosophy's common sense would be ruled 
out in seeking some standard against which to measure variations in analytic 
treatment. The maintenance of standards falls more and more within the ambit 
of the group's interests, as is seen in the U.S.A. where the analytic group rep- 
resents a significant power. 

What is at stake is thus less a standard* than standing*. What I earlier termed 
"formalism" is what Glover calls "perfectionism." To realize this, it suffices 
to underscore how he speaks of it: analysis loses any measure of its "thera- 
peutic applicability"; this ideal leads analysis to criteria of its operation that 
are "undefined and uncontrolled," and even to a "mystique (he uses the French 
word) which not only baffles investigation but blankets all healthy discussion." 7 

This mystification — which is, in fact, the technical term for any process that 
hides from the subject the origin of the effects of his own action — is all the 
more striking in that analysis enjoys favor, a favor which earns its stripes by its 
duration, only because it is well regarded broadly enough to occupy its puta- 
tive place. It suffices to have those in human science circles look to psycho- 
analysis to give them their place, for psychoanalysis to have found its 

328 Problems result from this that become of public interest in a country like 
America where the quantity of analysts gives the quality of the group the scope 
of a sociological factor influencing the collective. 

The fact that the milieu considers it necessary for the technique to be coher- 
ent with the theory is no more reassuring for all that. 

Only a global apprehension of the divergences, which is able to grasp them 
synchronically, can determine the cause of their discord. 

Variations on the Standard Treatment zys 

If we attempt to gain such an apprehension, we get the idea of a massive 
phenomenon of passivity, and even of subjective inertia, whose effects seem 
to grow with the spreading of the movement. 

At least this is what is suggested by the dispersion we observe both in the 
coordination of concepts and in their comprehension. 

Fine texts try to revitalize them and seem to take the hardy approach of 
arguing on the basis of their antinomies, but it is only to fall into purely fic- 
tive syncretisms that do not rule out indifference to false appearances. 

People even go so far as to rejoice in the fact that the weakness of inven- 
tion has not allowed for more damage to the fundamental concepts, those still 
being the concepts we owe to Freud. The latter's resistance to so many 
attempts to adulterate them becomes the a contrario proof of their consistency. 

This is true of transference, which manages to weather the storm of pop- 
ularizing theory and even popular ideas. It owes this to the Hegelian robust- 
ness of its constitution: Indeed, what other concept is there that better brings 
out its identity with the thing, the analytic thing in this case, cleaving to it with 
all the ambiguities that constitute its logical time? 

This temporal foundation is the one with which Freud inaugurates trans- 
ference and that I modulate by asking: Is it a return or a memorial? Others 
dwell on the thing regarding this resolved point by asking: Is it real or dereis- 
tic? Lagache 8 raises a question about the concept of transference: Need for 
repetition or repetition of need? 9 

We see here that the dilemmas in which the practitioner gets bogged down 329 

derive from depreciations by which his thinking fails his action. These con- 
tradictions captivate us when, extenuated in his theory, they seem to force his 
pen with some semantic Ananke in which the dialectic of his action can be read 
ab inferiori. 

Thus an external coherence persists in the deviations of analytic experi- 
ence that surround its axis, with the same rigor with which the shrapnel of a 
projectile, in dispersing, maintains its ideal trajectory with the center of grav- 
ity of the pyramidal shape it traces out. 

The condition of the misunderstanding which, as I noted above, obstructs 
psychoanalysis' path to recognition thus turns out to be redoubled by a mis- 
recognition internal to its own movement. 

It is here that the question of variations — which must arise anew for the 
analyst after having been presented to the medical public — can find an unfore- 
seen advantage. 

This platform is narrow: It is based entirely on the fact that a practice based 
on inter subjectivity cannot escape the latter's laws when, in seeking to gain 
recognition, it invokes their effects. 

2J4 Ecrits 

Perhaps the flash will be bright enough to bring out the fact that the hid- 
den extraterritoriality by which psychoanalysis proceeds in order to spread 
suggests that we treat it in the same way as a tumor by exteriorization. 

But we can only do justice to a claim that is rooted in misrecognition by 
accepting it in its crudest terms. 

The question of variations in treatment, taken further still here with the 
gallant jibe of "standard treatment," incites me to retain here but one crite- 
rion, since it is the only one at the disposal of the physician who orients his 
patient in the treatment. This criterion, which is rarely enunciated since it is 
considered tautological, can be stated as follows: A psychoanalysis, whether 
standard or not, is the treatment one expects from a psychoanalyst. 

From the Psychoanalyst's Pathway to Its Maintenance, Considered 
from the Viewpoint of Its Deviation 

The remark with which I closed the preceding section is only obvious ironi- 
cally. Highlighting, as it does, the apparent impasse of the question when taken 
330 dogmatically, it reiterates it — if we look at it closely, without omitting the nec- 

essary grain of salt — by way of a synthetic a priori judgment, on the basis of 
which practical reason could no doubt find its bearings. 

For if psychoanalysis' pathway is called into question so seriously by its 
variations that it can no longer recommend itself except on the basis of a stan- 
dard, such a precarious existence requires that a man maintain this pathway 
and that he be a real man. 

Furthermore, it is in the solicitations to which the real man is exposed by 
the ambiguity of this pathway that people will try to gauge what he makes of 
it through its effect on him. For if he pursues his task amid this ambiguity, it 
is because it does not stop him any more than is common in the majority of 
human practices. But if the question of the limit to be assigned to these vari- 
ations remains endemic to this particular practice, it is because no one sees 
where the ambiguity ends. 

Hence it is of little importance that the real man spares himself the effort 
of defining this endpoint on the basis of authorities who provide support here 
only by making him mistake one thing for another, or that he makes do by 
misrecognizing this endpoint in its rigor, avoiding experiencing its limit. In 
both cases, he is more duped \joue] by his action than he performs it [qu f il ne 
lajoue\ but he finds it all the easier to situate therein the gifts that adapt him 
to it — without noticing that, in abandoning himself to the bad faith of insti- 
tuted practice, he degrades it to the level of routines whose secrets are dis- 
pensed by clever analysts. Such secrets become unassailable, since they are 

Variations on the Standard Treatment zy5 

always subordinated to the same gifts — even if there were none left in the 
world — that they reserve themselves the right to detect. 

He who spares himself the trouble of concerning himself with his mission 
at such a cost will even consider his decision confirmed by a warning that still 
resonates from the very voice which formulated the fundamental rules of his 
practice: not to form too lofty an idea of this mission, still less to become the 
prophet of some established truth. Hence this precept, by which the master 
thought he was offering these rules for the understanding, merely lends itself 
to false humility because, being presented in a negative form, it was misun- 
derstood [contresens]. 

Along the path of true humility, we will not have to look far for the unbear- 
able ambiguity that is proposed to psychoanalysis; it is within everyone 's reach. 
It is revealed in the question of what it means to speak, and one encounters it 
simply by welcoming [accueillir] a discourse. For the very locution in which 331 

the French language records [recueille] its most naive intention — that of 
understanding what this discourse "means to say" [ce qu \l "veut dire "] — tells 
us clearly enough that it does not say it. But what this "means to say" means 
to say is still a double entendre and it is up to the hearer whether it is one or 
the other: whether it is what the speaker means to say to him by the discourse 
he addresses to him or what this discourse tells him about the condition of the 
speaker. Thus not only does the meaning of this discourse reside in he who 
listens to it, but the reception [accueil] he gives it determines who says it — 
namely, whether it is the subject to whom he gives permission and lends cre- 
dence or the other that his discourse delivers to the listener as constituted. 

Now the analyst seizes the listener's discretionary power to raise it to a sec- 
ond power. For apart from the fact that he expressly positions himself as an 
interpreter of the discourse for himself, and even for the speaking subject, he 
imposes upon the subject, in the topic of his discourse, the proper opening for 
the rule he assigns him as fundamental: This discourse must be pursued first 
without stopping and second without holding anything back, [something the 
subject might be inclined to do] not only out of a concern for its coherence or 
internal rationality but also out of shame regarding its ad hominem thrust or 
its unacceptability in polite society. The analyst thus widens the gap that places 
at his mercy the subject's overdetermination in the ambiguity of constituting 
speech and constituted discourse, as if he hoped that the extremes would meet 
up by a revelation that brings them together. But this conjunction cannot occur 
due to the rarely noticed limits within which supposedly free association 
remains contained, by which the subject's speech is maintained in syntactic 
forms that articulate it in discourse in the language employed as understood 
by the analyst. 

276* Ecrits 

Hence the analyst retains complete responsibility, in the weighty sense that 
I have just defined on the basis of his position as a listener. An ambiguity that 
is direct, since it is at his own discretion as an interpreter, turns into a secret 
summons that he cannot dismiss even by remaining silent. 

Psychoanalytic authors thus admit to its weight, as obscure as it remains to 
them. This is seen in all the ways in which their uneasiness can be identified, 
running the gamut from the awkwardness and even formlessness of their the- 
ories of interpretation, to the ever rarer use of interpretation in practice owing 
332 to its never properly explained postponement. The vague term "analyzing" 

all too often makes up for the imprecision that keeps them from using "inter- 
preting," because it has not been updated. This is an effect of the avoidance 
at work in the practitioner's thinking. The false consistency of the notion of 
countertransference, its stylishness, and the fanfare it fosters can be explained 
by the fact that it serves as an alibi: the analyst thereby avoids considering the 
action that it is incumbent upon him to take in the production of truth. 10 

The question of variations would be clarified by following this effect, 
diachronically this time, in a history of variations of the psychoanalytic move- 
ment, in bringing the type of parodic catholicity in which this question takes 
shape back to its universal root — namely, its introduction into the experience 
of speech. 

Moreover, there is no need to be a genius to realize that the key words that 
the real man I mentioned uses so sparingly to illustrate his technique are not 
always the words he conceptualizes the most clearly. Our oracles would turn 
red were they to all try to explain them at once, and are not unhappy that the 
shame of their junior colleagues — extending to the most inexperienced by a 
paradox explained by the training methods currently in favor — spares them 
any such ordeal. 

Analysis of the material, analysis of resistances — it is in these terms that 
analysts explain both the basic principle of and the ultimate key to their tech- 
nique, the analysis of the material seeming outdated since the promotion of 
the analysis of resistances. Nevertheless, since the relevance of the interpre- 
tation of a resistance is demonstrated by the production of "new material," 
the nuances, or even divergences, begin with what is done with this new mate- 
rial. And if we are to interpret it like we did before, we will be justified in won- 
dering whether the term "interpretation" has the same meaning at these two 
different points in time. 

To answer this question, we can look back to around 1920 when the "turn- 
ing point" (that is the term consecrated in the history of analytic technique) 
occurred which has since been considered decisive in the pathways of analy- 
sis. It was explained at that time by an ebbing in the results analysis was able 

Variations on the Standard Treatment 277 

to achieve, a finding one could only shed light on heretofore with the recom- 
mendation — whether apocryphal or not, in which the master's humor 
retroactively acquires the status of foresight — that we had better quickly take 333 

inventory of the unconscious before it closes back down. 

Yet the very term "material" has since denoted the fact that the set of phe- 
nomena in which we had hitherto learned to find the symptom's secret — an 
immense domain annexed by Freud 's genius to man's knowledge [connaissance] 
that warrants the true title of "psychoanalytic semantics," including dreams, 
bungled actions, slips of the tongue, memory disturbances, whims of thought 
association, and so on — has fallen out of favor in analytic technique. 

Prior to this "turning point," it was by deciphering such material that the 
subject was able to remember his history along with the outlines of the con- 
flict that determined his symptoms. And the value to be granted in technique 
to the elimination of symptoms was based on how well the order in his his- 
tory was restored and the gaps in it were filled. The observed elimination of 
symptoms demonstrated a dynamic in which the unconscious was defined as 
a clearly constituting subject, since it sustained symptoms in their meaning 
before it was revealed, and we experienced the unconscious directly, recog- 
nizing it in the ruse of disturbances in which the repressed compromises with 
the censorship — in this respect, let it be noted in passing, neurosis is akin to 
the most common condition of truth in speech and writing. 

If, then, the analyst gave the subject the solution [mot] to his symptom, but 
the symptom persisted, it was because the subject resisted recognizing its mean- 
ing; analysts thus concluded that it was this resistance that must, above all, be 
analyzed. Note that this conclusion still put its faith in interpretation, but it 
was the particular aspect of the subject in which people sought this resistance 
that led to the approaching deviation; for it is clear that this notion tends to 
take the subject to be constituted in his discourse. Should the deviation go on 
to seek his resistance outside of this discourse, it will be irremediable. No one 
will come back to question the constitutor function of interpretation regard- 
ing its failure. 

This move to give up on the use of speech justifies my saying that psycho- 
analysis has not since left behind its childhood illness, this term going beyond 
the commonplace here, with all the propriety it encounters due to this very 
move — where everything is, in effect, based on the methodological faux pas 
made by the best-known name in child analysis. 

The idea of resistance was not new, however. In 1895, Freud had already 334 

recognized its effect in the verbalization of chains of speech in which the sub- 
ject constitutes his history. Freud did not hesitate to illustrate his conception 
of this process by representing these chains as encompassing with their array 

2j8 Ecrits 

the pathogenic nucleus around which they bend, in order to indicate that resist- 
ance operates in a direction perpendicular to the parallelism of these chains. 
He even went so far as to posit the mathematical formula that this effect is 
inversely proportional to the distance between the nucleus and the chain being 
remembered, allowing us to gauge thereby how closely we have managed to 
approach it. 

It is clear here that while interpretation of the resistance at work in such a 
chain of speech is different from interpretation of meaning by which the sub- 
ject passes from one chain to another "deeper" chain, the first form of inter- 
pretation nevertheless operates on the very text of that speech, which includes 
its elusions, distortions, elisions, and even holes and syncopes. 

The interpretation of resistance thus introduces the same ambiguity that I 
analyzed above in the position of the listener, which is taken up again here in 
the question: Who is resisting? "The ego," answered the first doctrine, includ- 
ing therein the personal subject, no doubt, but solely from the undiscriminat- 
ing angle of its dynamics. 

It is here that the new orientation in technique runs headlong at a lure: it 
answers the question in the same way, neglecting the fact that it puts the blame 
on an ego whose meaning Freud, its oracle, has just changed; for Freud has just 
installed the ego in a new topography precisely in order to specify that resist- 
ance is not the privilege of the ego alone, but also of the id and the superego. 

Nothing else in his last conceptualization will henceforth be truly under- 
stood, as can be seen in the fact that the authors of the "turning point" wave 
are still at the stage of examining the death instinct from every angle, and even 
of getting bogged down regarding what the subject must properly identify 
with, the analyst's ego or his superego, without making a single worthwhile 
step forward, multiplying ever more instead an irresistible misconception. 

By reversing the correct choice that determines which subject is welcomed 
in speech, the symptom's constituting subject is treated as if he were consti- 
335 tuted — like material [en materiel], as they say — while the ego, as constituted 

as it may be in resistance, becomes the subject upon whom the analyst hence- 
forth calls as the constituting agency. 

The idea that this subject involves the person in his "totality" is a false effect 
of the new concept, even and especially insofar as it ensures a connection with 
the organs of the so-called perception-consciousness system. (Doesn't Freud, 
moreover, make the superego the first guarantor of an experience of reality?) 

What is in fact at stake is the return, of the most reactionary and thus of a 
highly instructive kind, of an ideology that has been given up everywhere else 
because it is quite simply bankrupt. 11 

Variations on the Standard Treatment 279 

Consider the lines with which Anna Freud's book The Ego and the Mech- 
anisms of Defense opens: 

There have been periods in the development of psychoanalytic science 
when the theoretical study of the individual ego was distinctly unpop- 
ular. [. . .] Whenever interest was shifted from the deeper to the more 
superficial psychic strata — whenever, that is to say, research was 
deflected from the id to the ego — it was felt that here was a beginning 
of apostasy from psychoanalysis as a whole. 

These few lines suffice to allow us to hear, in the anxious sound with which 
they preluded the advent of a new era, the sinister music with which Euripides 
inscribed, in The Phoenician Women, the mythical link between the character 
of Antigone and the moment of the Sphinx's repercussion on the hero's action. 

Since then it has become commonplace to repeat that we know nothing more 
about the subject than what his ego is willing to let us know. Otto Fenichel goes 
so far as to proffer quite simply, as if it were an indisputable truth, that "The 
understanding of the meaning of words is particularly a concern of the ego." 12 

The next step led to the confusing of resistances with ego defenses. 

The idea of defense, put forward by Freud already in 1894 when he first 336 

relates neurosis to a widely accepted conception of the function of illness, is 
taken up again by him in his major work, Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety , 
to indicate that the ego forms on the basis of the same moments as a symptom. 

But the semantic use Anna Freud makes of the ego, in the book just men- 
tioned, as the subject of verbs, suffices by itself to display the transgression 
she consecrates in it; it shows too that, in the thereafter-received deviation, 
the ego is truly the objectified subject whose defense mechanisms constitute 

Treatment is henceforth conceptualized as an attack, positing in theory the 
existence of a succession of systems of defense in the subject, which is ade- 
quately confirmed by the "cant phrase" — made fun of in passing by Edward 
Glover — by which one facilely tries to sound important by raising the ques- 
tion on any and every occasion whether one has sufficiently " analyse [d] the 
aggression." 13 In this way, the simpleton asserts that he has never encountered 
any transferential effects other than aggression. 

It is in this way that Fenichel tries to set things right by a reversal that con- 
fuses things still more. For while there may be some value in the order he traces 
of the operation to be carried out against the subject's defenses, which he con- 
siders to be like a fortress — implying that the defenses as a whole merely tend 

280 Ecrits 

to divert the attack from the one defense which, since it too closely covers 
what it hides, already gives it away, but also that this latter defense is hence- 
forth the essential stake, so much so that the drive hidden by this defense, when 
it offers itself up nakedly, must be considered to be the supreme artifice designed 
to preserve it — the impression of reality that holds our attention in this strat- 
egy serves as a prelude to the awakening that is such that where all suspicion 
of truth disappears, the dialectic reasserts its rights by appearing not to have 
to be useless in practice, if only by giving it a meaning. 

For there is no longer any end to the supposed depths or even any reason 

to seek them if what such a search discovers is no truer than what covers it 

337 over. In forgetting this, analysis degenerates into an immense psychological 

mess, and what we hear about the way it is practiced by certain analysts merely 

confirms this impression. 

If pretending to pretend is, indeed, a possible moment of the dialectic, the 
fact remains that the truth the subject confesses in order that we take it to be 
a lie is not the same as an error on his part. But the maintenance of this dis- 
tinction is only possible in a dialectic of intersubjectivity in which constitut- 
ing speech is presupposed in constituted discourse. 

Indeed, to flee the area shy of the reason for this discourse, people displace 
it to the beyond. While the subject's discourse could, possibly and occasion- 
ally, be bracketed in the initial perspective of an analysis because it may serve 
as a lure in or even as an obstruction to the revelation of truth, it is insofar as 
it serves as a sign that it is now permanently devalued. For it is no longer only 
that it is stripped of its content in order to dwell instead on its flow, its tone, 
its interruptions, and even its melody. It seems that any other manifestation of 
the subject's presence will soon have to be preferred to it: his presentation in 
his approach and gait, the affectation of his manners, and the way he takes his 
leave of us. An attitudinal reaction in the session will hold our attention more 
than a syntactical error and will be examined more in terms of its energy level 
than its gestural import. An up-welling of emotion and a visceral gurgle will 
be the sought- for evidence of the mobilization of resistance, and the idiocy of 
the fanatics of lived experience will go so far as to find the creme de la creme 
in smelling each other. 

But the more we separate the authenticity of the analytic relationship from 
the discourse in which it is inscribed, what we continue to call its "interpreta- 
tion" derives ever more exclusively from the analyst's knowledge. This 
knowledge has, of course, grown considerably in this pathway, but people can- 
not claim they have, in this way, left behind an intellectualist form of analy- 
sis, unless they admit that the communication of this knowledge to the subject 
acts only as a suggestion to which the criterion of truth remains foreign. Thus 

Variations on the Standard Treatment 281 

Wilhelm Reich, who clearly defined the conditions of this kind of interven- 
tion in his form of character analysis, which is rightly considered to be an essen- 338 
tial stage in the development of the new technique, admits that he can expect 
it to have an effect only on the basis of his insistence. 14 

This use of suggestion does not become a veritable interpretation just 
because it is analyzed as such. Such an analysis merely traces out the relation of 
one ego to another ego. This can be seen in the usual formulation that the ana- 
lyst must become an ally of the healthy part of the subject's ego, when it is com- 
pleted with the theory of the dissociation of the ego in psychoanalysis. 15 If we 
thus proceed to make a series of bipartitions in the subject's ego by doing this 
ad infinitum, it is clear that his ego is reduced, in the end, to the analyst's ego. 

Along this pathway, what does it matter if we proceed according to a for- 
mulation in which the return to the scholar's traditional disdain for "morbid 
thought" is clearly reflected? For by speaking to the patient in "his own lan- 
guage," we still will not render him his own speech. 

The ground of the question remains unchanged and is instead confirmed 
when it is formulated from an entirely different perspective, that of the object- 
relation, whose recent role in technique we shall see. But when object rela- 
tions theory refers to an introjection by the subject of the analyst's ego, in the 
guise of the good object, it makes us wonder what an observant Huron would 
deduce about the mentality of modern civilized man from this mystical meal, 
assuming he makes the same strange mistake we make in taking literally the 
symbolic identifications seen in the kind of thought that we call "primitive." 

The fact remains that a theoretician weighing in on the delicate question 
of the termination of analysis can crudely posit that it implies that the subject 
has identified with the analyst's ego, insofar as this ego analyzes him. 16 

This formulation, once demystified, signifies nothing if not that in ruling 
out any foundation of his relationship with the subject in speech, the analyst 
can communicate nothing to him that the analyst does not already know from 
his preconceived views or immediate intuition — that is, nothing that is not 339 

subject to the organization of the analyst's own ego. 

I will momentarily accept this aporia to which analysis is reduced in order 
to maintain its core in its deviation, and I will raise the question: What must 
the analyst's ego thus be if it assumes the role of being the measure of truth 
for all of us and for each subject who puts himself in the analyst's hands? 

On the Ego in Analysis and Its End in the Analyst 

The term "aporia" with which, at the end of the second section, I summed up 
the gain made with respect to the impasse in the first chapter, announces that 

282 Ecrits 

I intend to confront this gain in the psychoanalyst's common sense — and cer- 
tainly not take pleasure in the fact that he may be offended by it. 

Here again I will proceed by noting that the same things require a differ- 
ent discourse when they are taken up in another context, and will introduce 
my remarks by recalling that, if this connivance (Einfiihlung) and assessment 
{Alschatiung) — which Ferenczi (1928, p. 209) 17 will not have come from any- 
where but from the preconscious — have prevailed over the notorious "com- 
munication of unconsciouses" (considered, not unjustifiably, in an early phase 
of analysis to be the crux of true interpretation), the current promotion of 
effects that are placed under the heading of "countertransference" 18 is equally 
a step backward. 

Moreover, the quibbling can only continue given that the ego as an agency 
is situated as unrelated to its neighbor agencies by those who consider it to 
represent the subject's collateral [surete]. 

We must call upon the first impression the analyst gives, which is certainly 
not that the ego is his strength, at least when it comes to his own ego and the 
foundation it can serve as for him. 

Isn't that the hitch that requires the analyst to be analyzed, a principle that 
Ferenczi considers to warrant the title of the second fundamental rule of psy- 
choanalysis? And doesn't the analyst bend under the weight of the judgment 
340 that might well be viewed as Freud's last, since it was handed down by him 

two years before his death: "analysts in their own personalities have not invari- 
ably come up to the standard of psychical normality to which they wish to 
educate their patients." 19 This astonishing verdict, which there is no reason to 
revise today, means that the analyst cannot take advantage of the excuse that 
can be used in favor of every elite, which is that it finds its recruits among 
ordinary mortals. 

Since this elite is below average, the most favorable hypothesis is to attrib- 
ute it to the adverse repercussion of a disturbance [desarroi] that originates in 
the analytic act itself, as the preceding shows. 

Ferenczi, the first-generation author who most relevantly raised the ques- 
tion of what is required of the analyst as a person, in particular as regards the 
end of the treatment, elsewhere mentions the root of the problem. 

In his luminous article on psychoanalytic elasticity, he expresses himself as 

I should like to mention, as a problem that has not been considered, that 
of the metapsychology of the analyst's mental processes during analy- 
sis. His cathexes oscillate between identification (analytic object-love) 
on the one hand and self-control or intellectual activity on the other. 

Variations on the Standard Treatment 283 

During the long day's work he can never allow himself the pleasure of 
giving his narcissism and egoism free play in reality, and he can give free 
play to them in his fantasy only for brief moments. A strain of this kind 
scarcely occurs otherwise in life, and I do not doubt that sooner or later 
it will call for the creation of a special hygiene for the analyst. 20 

Such is the abrupt precondition whose importance derives from the fact 
that it concerns what the psychoanalyst must first vanquish in himself. For 
why else would Ferenczi use this to introduce the tempered pathway that he 
wants to trace for us of the analyst's intervention with the elastic line he tries 
to define? 

The order of subjectivity that the analyst must bring about in himself is the 
only thing Ferenczi indicates with an arrow at each intersection, and it is monot- 
onously repeated by recommendations that are too varied for us not to try to 341 
grasp how they fit together. Menschenkenntnis and Menschenforschung are two 
terms he uses whose romantic ancestry, which pushes them toward the art of 
leading men and the natural history of man, allows us to appreciate what the 
author hopes to do with them, by way of a sure method and an open market: 
reduction of one 's personal impact; knowledge relegated to a subordinate posi- 
tion; authority that knows not to insist; goodness without indulgence; 21 dis- 
trust of the altar of good deeds; the only resistance to be attacked being that 
of indifference, Unglauben, or of refusal, Ablehnung; encouraging nasty com- 
ments; and true modesty regarding one 's knowledge. In all of these rules, isn't 
it the ego that effaces itself in order to give way to the subject-point of inter- 
pretation? Thus these rules can only take effect on the basis of the psychoan- 
alyst's personal analysis, and especially its end. 

Where is the end of analysis as far as the ego is concerned? How can we 
know this if we misrecognize the ego's function in the very action of psycho- 
analysis? Let us follow the path of a kind of criticism that puts a text to the test 
of the very principles it defends. 

And let us submit the so-called analysis of character to it. Character analy- 
sis presents itself as based on the discovery that the subject's personality is 
structured like a symptom that his personality feels to be foreign; in other 
words, like a symptom, his personality harbors a meaning, that of a repressed 
conflict. The material that reveals this conflict is elicited in the second stage, 
after a preliminary stage of treatment whose goal — as Reich expressly states 
it in his conception, which has remained a classic in analysis — is to get the 
subject to take his own personality as a symptom. 

This point of view has clearly borne fruit in an objectification of structures, 
such as the so-called "genital-narcissistic" and "masochistic" characters, 

284 Ecrits 

which were previously neglected because they were apparently asymptomatic, 
not to mention the hysterical and compulsive characters, which were already 
indicated by their symptoms, whose collection of traits constitutes a precious 

342 contribution to psychological knowledge, even if their theorization leaves 
something to be desired. 

It is all the more important to pause at the results of this form of analysis, 
of which Reich was the master craftsman, in the assessment he gives of them. 
It amounts to the following: the quantity of change in the subject that legiti- 
mates this kind of analysis never even goes so far as to blur the lines that sep- 
arate the original structures from each other. 22 Hence, the positive effects of 
the analysis of these structures that are felt by the subject, after the structures 
have been "symptomatized" through the objectification of their traits, oblige 
us to more closely indicate their relation to the tensions that the analysis has 
resolved. The whole theory that Reich provides of it is based on the idea that 
these structures are a defense by the individual against the orgasmic effusion 
whose primacy in lived experience can alone ensure its harmony. The 
extremes this idea led him to are well known — they went so far as to get him 
ousted by the analytic community. But, in ousting him not unjustifiably, no 
one ever really knew how to formulate why Reich was wrong. 

We have to realize, first, that these structures play only the role of a 
medium or material, since they persist after the resolution of the tensions that 
seem to motivate them. This medium or material is, no doubt, ordered like 
the symbolic material of neurosis, as analysis proves, but it derives its efficacy 
here from the imaginary function, as it is revealed in the triggering of instinc- 
tual behavior; we learn about this from animal ethology, even though ethol- 
ogy itself has been strongly influenced by the concepts of displacement and 
identification stemming from psychoanalysis. 

Thus Reich made only one mistake in his character analysis: what he calls 
"character armor"* and treats as such is actually but an armorial. The subject, 
after treatment, still carries the weight of the arms he received from nature, 
having merely effaced from them the mark of a blazon. 

If this confusion was nevertheless possible, it is because the imaginary func- 
tion — which in animals serves as a guide in their sexual fixation on the con- 
gener, in their display rituals by which the reproductive act is triggered, and 

343 even in their marking of territory — seems in man to be entirely diverted toward 
the narcissistic relation on which the ego is based, giving rise to an aggres- 
siveness whose coordinate denotes the signification that I will try to show to 
be the first and last word of this relation. Reich's error can be explained by his 
deliberate refusal of the signification that is tied to the death instinct, which 
was introduced by Freud at the height of his conceptual powers, and which is, 

Variations on the Standard Treatment 285 

as we know, the touchstone of the mediocrity of analysts, whether they reject 
it or disfigure it. 

Thus character analysis is only able to establish a properly mystifying 
conception of the subject on the basis of what proves to be a defense in that 
analysis, if we apply its own principles to it. 

To return psychoanalysis to a veridical path, it is worth recalling that analy- 
sis managed to go so far in the revelation of man's desires only by following, 
in the veins of neurosis and the marginal subjectivity of the individual, the 
structure proper to a desire that thus proves to model it at an unexpected 
depth — namely, the desire to have his desire recognized. This desire, in which 
it is literally verified that man's desire is alienated in the other's desire, in effect 
structures the drives discovered in analysis, in accordance with all the vicissi- 
tudes of the logical substitutions in their source, aim [direction], and object. 23 
But these drives, however far back we go into their history, instead of prov- 
ing to derive from the need for a natural satisfaction, simply modulate in phases 
that reproduce all the forms of sexual perversion — that, at least, is the most 
obvious and best known fact of analytic experience. 

But we more easily neglect the dominance found there of the narcissistic 
relation, that is, of a second alienation by which the internal splitting of his 
existence and his facticity is inscribed in the subject, along with the complete 
ambivalence of the position he identifies with in the perverse couple. It is nev- 
ertheless in the properly subjective meaning thus highlighted in perversion, 
far more than in its accession to a widely acknowledged objectification, that 
lies the step that psychoanalysis made man's knowledge take through its 
annexation, as the evolution of scientific literature alone demonstrates. 344 

Now, the theory of the ego in analysis remains marked by a fundamental 
misrecognition if we neglect the period of its elaboration in Freud 's work run- 
ning from 1910 to 1920, in which it is entirely inscribed in the structure of the 
narcissistic relation. 

In the early stage of psychoanalysis, the study of the ego never constituted 
a subject of aversion, as Anna Freud would have it in the above-cited passage. 
Rather, it is since people came up with the idea of promoting it in analysis that 
this study truly favors the subversion of psychoanalysis. 

The conception of the phenomenon of passionate love [amour-passion] as 
determined by the image of the ideal ego, like the question of its imminent 
hatred, are the points we must examine from the abovementioned period of 
Freud's thought if we are to properly understand the relation between the 
ego and the image of the other — such as it is already made sufficiently clear 
in his very title, which joins Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego 
(1921) 24 — in one of the texts with which Freud inaugurates the last period of 

286 Ecrits 

his thought, the one in which he completes the definition of the ego in his 

But this completion can only be understood by grasping the coordinates of 
his progress in developing the notions of primary masochism and the death 
instinct, found in Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920), 25 and in developing the 
conception of the negating root of objectification, as it is laid out in the short 
1925 article on Verneinung (negation). 26 

Only by studying Freud's progress in these areas can we explain his grow- 
ing interest in aggressiveness in transference, in resistance, and even in Civi- 
liiation and Its Discontents (1929), 27 showing that the kind of aggression we 
imagine to be at the root of the struggle for survival is not what is at stake in 
them. The notion of aggressiveness corresponds, on the contrary, to the rend- 
ing of the subject from himself, a rending whose primordial moment comes 
345 when the sight of the other's image, apprehended by him as a unified whole, 

anticipates his sense that he lacks motor coordination, this image retroactively 
structuring this lack of motor coordination in images of fragmentation. This 
experience explains both the depressive reaction, as reconstructed by Melanie 
Klein at the origins of the ego, and the child's jubiliatory assumption of his 
image in the mirror, the phenomenon of which, characteristic of the period 
beginning at six to eight months of age, is considered by the author of these 
lines to manifest in an exemplary manner the properly imaginary nature of 
the ego's function in the subject, along with the constitution of the ego's ideal 
UrbUd. 7 * 

It is thus at the heart of experiences of bearing and intimidation during the 
first years of his life that the individual is introduced to the mirage of mastery 
of his functions, in which his subjectivity will remain split, and whose imagi- 
nary formation, naively objectified by psychologists as the ego's synthetic func- 
tion, manifests instead the condition that introduces him to the alienating 
master/ slave dialectic. 

But if these experiences — which can be seen in animals too at many 
moments in their instinctual cycles, and especially in the preliminary displays 
of the reproductive cycle, with all the lures and aberrations these experiences 
involve — in fact open onto this signification in order to durably structure the 
human subject, it is because they receive this signification from the tension 
stemming from the impotence proper to the prematurity of birth, by which 
naturalists characterize the specificity of man's anatomical development — a 
fact that helps us grasp the dehiscence from natural harmony, required by Hegel 
to serve as the fruitful illness, life 's happy fault, in which man, distinguishing 
himself from his essence, discovers his existence. 

There is, in effect, no other reality behind the new prestige the imaginary 

Variations on the Standard Treatment z8y 

function takes on in man than this touch of death whose mark he receives at 
birth. For it is clearly the same "death instinct" that is manifested in this func- 
tion in the animal kingdom, if we stop to consider that (1) by serving in the 
specific fixation on the congener in the sexual cycle, subjectivity is not dis- 346 

tinguished there from the image that captivates it, and that (2) the individual 
appears there only as the passing representative of this image — that is, only 
as the passage of this represented image into life. Only to man does this image 
reveal its mortal signification and, at the same time, that he exists. But this 
image is only given to him as an image of the other — that is to say, it is rav- 
ished from him. 

Thus the ego is never but half of the subject; moreover, it is the half he loses 
in finding that image. We can thus understand why he clings to it and tries to 
hold on to it in everything that seems to stand in for \doubler\ it in himself or 
in the other, and offers him its resemblance, along with its effigy. 

Demystifying the meaning of what analytic theory calls "primary identifi- 
cations," let us say that the subject always imposes on the other — in the radi- 
cal diversity of relational modes that run the gamut from the invocation of 
speech to the most immediate sympathy — an imaginary form which bears the 
seal, or even superimposed seals, of the experiences of impotence by which this 
form has been shaped in the subject. And this form is no other than the ego. 

Thus, to return to the action of analysis, the subject always naively tends 
to concentrate his discourse on the focal point of the imaginary where this 
form is produced once he is freed, by the condition of the fundamental rule 
of psychoanalysis, from the threat that a total rejection may be addressed to 
him. It is the visual power this imaginary form retains from its origins that, in 
fact, justifies a condition which is rarely explained, even though it is felt to be 
crucial in variations in technique: the condition that the analyst occupy, in the 
session, a place that makes him invisible to the subject. For this allows the 
narcissistic image to be produced all the more purely and the regressive pro- 
teanism of its seductions to have freer range. 

Now, the analyst undoubtedly knows, on the other hand, that he must not 
respond to appeals that the subject makes to him in this place, as implicit as 
they may be; otherwise he will see transference love arise there that nothing, 
except its artificial production, distinguishes from passionate love, the condi- 
tions which produced it thus failing due to their effect, analytic discourse being 
reduced to the silence of the evoked presence. The analyst also knows that the 347 

more he fails to respond, the more he provokes in the subject the aggression, 
and even hatred, characteristic of negative transference. 

But he knows less well that what he says in his response is less important 
here than the place from which he responds. For he cannot content himself 

288 Ecrits 

with the precaution of avoiding entering into the subject's game when the prin- 
ciple of the analysis of resistances orders him to objectify it. 

Indeed, by simply targeting the object whose image is the subject's ego, that 
is, by targeting his character traits, the analyst falls under the sway of the illu- 
sions [prestiges] of his own ego, no less naively than the subject himself does. 
And the effect here is not so much to be gauged in the mirages they produce 
as in the distance they bring about in his object-relation. For it suffices for it 
to be fixed for the subject to know how to find it there. 

The analyst thus enters into the game of a more radical connivance in which 
the shaping of the subject by the analyst's ego serves merely as an excuse for 
the analyst's narcissism. 

If the truth of this aberration were not openly avowed in the theorization 
provided for it, whose forms I highlighted above, the proof could be found in 
the phenomena that one of the analysts the best trained in Ferenczi's school 
of authenticity so sensitively analyzes as characteristic of the cases that he con- 
siders to have been successfully terminated: whether he is describing the nar- 
cissistic ardor with which the subject is consumed and which we encourage 
him to douse in the cold shower of reality, or his oozing of an indescribable 
emotion at the final leave taking, going so far as to note that the analyst shares 
his emotion. 29 This is corroborated by the author's disappointed resignation 
at having to admit that certain beings cannot hope for anything more than to 
separate from their analysts in hatred. 30 

These results justify a use of transference corresponding to a theory of so- 
348 called "primary" love which takes as its model the mutual voracity of the 

mother/child couple: 31 in all the forms envisioned, we see the purely dyadic 
conception that has come to govern the analytic relationship. 32 

If the inter subjective relationship in analysis is, indeed, conceptualized as 
that of a dyad of individuals, it can only be based on the unity of a perpetu- 
ated vital dependency, the idea of which altered the Freudian conception of 
neurosis (abandonment neurosis); and it can only be carried out in the passi- 
vation/activation polarity of the subject, the terms of which are expressly con- 
sidered by Alice Balint to formulate the impasse that makes this theory 
necessary. 33 Such errors can be considered human inasmuch as they are ren- 
dered subtle in connotation by their author. 

These errors cannot be corrected without reference to the mediation that 
speech constitutes between subjects. But this mediation is inconceivable unless 
one presupposes the presence of a third term in the imaginary relationship 
itself: mortal reality — the death instinct — which conditions the illusions 
[prestiges] of narcissism, as I showed earlier, and whose effects can be found 

Variations on the Standard Treatment 289 

anew in a brilliant form in the results considered by Balint to be those of an 
analysis carried to its full term in an ego-to-ego relationship. 

In order for the transference relationship to escape these effects, the ana- 
lyst would have to strip the narcissistic image of his own ego of all the forms 
of desire by which that image has been constituted, reducing it to the only face 
that sustains it behind their masks: the face of the absolute master, death. 

It is thus clearly here that the analysis of the ego finds its ideal terminus: 
that in which the subject, having refound the origins of his ego in an imagi- 
nary regression, comes, by the progression of remembering, to its end in analy- 
sis — namely, the subjectification of his death. 

And this is supposed to be the end required of the analyst's ego, about whom 
we can say that he must acknowledge the prestige of but one master — death — 349 

in order for life, which he must guide through so many vicissitudes, to be his 
friend. This goal does not seem beyond human grasp — for it does not imply 
that for him, or for others, death is anything more than an illusion [prestige] — 
and it merely satisfies the requirements of his task, such as someone like Fer- 
enczi had defined it earlier. 

This imaginary condition can only be brought about, nevertheless, 
through an ascesis that is affirmed in a being by following a path along which 
all objective knowledge is progressively suspended. This is true because, for 
the subject, the reality of his own death is in no wise an object that can be imag- 
ined, and the analyst can know nothing about it, no more than anyone else, 
except that he is a being destined to die [promis a la mort]. Thus, assuming he 
has eliminated all the illusions [prestiges] of his ego in order to accede to "being- 
toward-death," no other knowledge, whether immediate or constructed, can 
be preferred by him to be made a power of, assuming it [il] is not simply abol- 
ished thereby. 

Thus he can now respond to the subject from the place he wants to respond 
from, but he no longer wants anything that determines this place. 

Here we find, if we think about it, the reason for the profound oscillatory 
movement that brings analysis back to an "expectant" practice after each 
misguided attempt to make it more "active." 

The analyst's approach cannot be left up to the indeterminacy of a free- 
dom of indifference, nevertheless. But the usual watchword of benevolent 
neutrality does not provide a sufficient indication here. For while it subordi- 
nates the analyst's pleasure to the subject's own good, it still does not place 
his knowledge at his disposal. 

Which brings us to the following question: What must the analyst know 
in analysis? 

2Cfo Ecrits 

What the Psychoanalyst Must Know: How to Ignore What He Knows 

The imaginary condition with which the preceding section culminates must 
be understood only as an ideal condition. But if we realize that the fact that 

350 something belongs to the imaginary does not mean that it is illusory, we can 
say that being taken to be ideal does not make it any more dereistic. For an 
ideal point and even a solution that is called "imaginary" in mathematics, 
because it provides the pivotal point of transformation, the node point of con- 
vergence of figures or functions that are entirely determined in reality [reel], 
are clearly constitutive parts of those figures and functions. This is true of the 
condition involving the analyst's ego in the form of the problem whose chal- 
lenge I have accepted. 

The question now directed at the analyst's knowledge derives its power 
from the fact that it does not bring with it the answer that the analyst knows 
what he is doing, since it is the obvious fact that he does not, whether in the- 
ory or in technique, which led us to raise the question here. 

For, if it is taken for granted that an analysis changes nothing in reality [reel] 
but "changes everything" for the subject, as long as the analyst cannot say 
what he is doing, the term "magical thinking" — used to designate the naive 
faith the subject he works with has in his power — only serves as an excuse for 
his own ignorance. 

If, indeed, there are many opportunities to demonstrate how idiotically this 
term is used both inside and outside of analysis, we will find here, no doubt, 
the most favorable opportunity for asking the analyst what authorizes him to 
consider his knowledge to be privileged. 

For his imbecilic recourse to the term "lived experience" to qualify the 
knowledge [connaissance] he gains from his own analysis, as if all knowledge 
[connaissance] deriving from an experience were not lived, does not suffice to 
distinguish his way of thinking from the way of thinking that considers him 
to be a man "not like the others." Nor can we attribute the vanity of this state- 
ment to the "they" [on] who repeat it. For if "they" are not justified, in effect, 
in saying that he is not a man like the others, since "they" recognize in their 
semblable a man in that "they" can speak to him, "they" are not wrong to 
mean by this that he is not a man like everyone else in that "they" recognize 
a man as their equal on the basis of the weight [portee] of his words. 

Now the analyst is different in that he makes use of a function that is com- 
mon to all men in a way that is not within everyone's grasp [portee] when he 
supports [ porte] speech. 

351 For that is what he does for the subject's speech, even by simply welcom- 

Variations on the Standard Treatment 291 

ing it, as I showed earlier, with an attentive silence. For this silence implies 
[comporte] speech, as we see in the expression "to keep silent" which, speak- 
ing of the analyst's silence, means not only that he makes no noise but that he 
keeps quiet instead 0/responding. 

We can go no further in this direction without asking: What is speech? And 
I will do my best to ensure that all the words hit their target [portent] here. 

Nevertheless, no concept supplies the meaning of speech, not even the con- 
cept of concept, for speech is not the meaning of meaning. But speech gives 
meaning its medium in the symbol that speech incarnates through its act. 

It is thus an act and, as such, it presupposes a subject. But it is not enough 
to say that, in this act, the subject presupposes another subject, for it is rather 
that he establishes himself here by being the other, but in a paradoxical unity 
of the one and the other by means of which, as I showed earlier, the one defers 
to the other in order to become identical to himself. 

We can thus say that speech manifests itself as a communication in which 
the subject, expecting the other to render his message true, proffers his mes- 
sage in an inverted form, and in which this message transforms him by 
announcing that he is the same. As is seen in any promise made [foi donne'e], 
in which the declarations "You are my wife" and "You are my master" sig- 
nify "I am your husband" and "I am your disciple." 

Speech thus seems to be an all the more true instance of speech [une parole] 
the less its truth is based on what is known as its "correspondence to the thing": 
true speech is thus paradoxically opposed to true discourse, their truth being 
distinguished by the fact that the former constitutes the recognition [recon- 
naissance] by the subjects of their beings insofar as they are invested [inter- 
esses] in them, while the latter is constituted by knowledge [connaissance] of 
reality \reel\ insofar as die subject targets reality in objects. But each of the 
truths distinguished here is altered when it crosses the path of the other truth. 

This is how true discourse, by isolating the givens [donnees] of promises in 
the giving of one's word [parole donnee\ makes the latter appear to be lying 
speech — since it pledges the future which, as they say, belongs to no one — 
and ambiguous too in that it constantly outstrips the being it concerns in the 
alienation in which its becoming is constituted. 

But true speech, questioning true discourse as to what it signifies, will find 352 

that one signification always refers to another signification in true discourse, 
no thing being able to be shown other than by a sign, and will thus make true 
discourse seem to be doomed to error. 

How, in navigating between the Charybdis and the Scylla of this inter- 
accusation of speech, could the intermediate discourse — that in which the sub- 

2<)2 Ecrits 

ject, in his design to get himself recognized, addresses speech to the other while 
taking into account what he knows of his being as given — avoid being forced 
into proceeding by way of ruse? 

This is, in effect, how discourse proceeds to con-vince, a word that involves 
strategy in the process of reaching an agreement. And, however little we may 
have participated in the enterprise of a human institution, or even in merely 
supporting it, we know that the struggle continues over the terms, even when 
the things have been agreed to. The prevalence of speech as the middle term 
is again manifested in this. 

This process is carried out while the subject manifests bad faith, steering 
his discourse between trickery, ambiguity, and error. But this struggle to assure 
so precarious a peace would not offer itself as the most common field of inter- 
subjectivity if man were not already completely per-suaded by speech, which 
means that he indulges in it thoroughly. 

For it is also true that man, in subordinating his being to the law of recog- 
nition, is traversed by the avenues of speech, which is why he is open to every 
suggestion. But he pauses and loses himself in the discourse of conviction, due 
to the narcissistic mirages that dominate his ego's relation to the other. 

Thus the subject's bad faith, being so constitutive of this intermediary dis- 
course that it is not even absent in his declaration of friendship, redoubles due 
to the misrecognition in which these mirages are instated. This is what Freud 
called the unconscious function of the ego in his topography, before he 
demonstrated its essential form in the discourse of negation (see "Die Vernei- 
nung," 1925). 

If the analyst is thus subjected to the ideal condition that the mirages of his 
narcissism must have become transparent to him, it is in order that he be per- 
meable to the other's authentic speech; we must now try to understand how 
he can recognize the latter through the other's discourse. 
353 Of course this intermediate discourse, even qua discourse of trickery and 

error, does not fail to bear witness to the existence of the kind of speech on 
which truth is based; for it sustains itself only by attempting to pass itself off 
as such, and even when it openly presents itself as a lying discourse, it merely 
affirms all the more strongly the existence of such speech. If we refind, 
through this phenomenological approach to truth, the key the loss of which 
leads positivist logicism in search of the "meaning of meaning," doesn't this 
approach also get us to recognize in truth the concept of concept insofar as it 
is revealed in speech in action [acte]? 

This speech, which constitutes the subject in its truth, is nevertheless for- 
ever forbidden to him, except in rare moments of his existence when he strives, 
ever so confusedly, to grasp it in his sworn word [foijuree]; it is forbidden in 

Variations on the Standard Treatment 293 

that he is doomed to misrecognize it by the intermediate discourse. This speech 
nonetheless speaks wherever it can be read in his being — that is, at all the lev- 
els at which it has shaped him. This antinomy is the very antinomy found in 
the meaning Freud gave to the notion of the unconscious. 

But if this speech is nevertheless accessible, it is because no true speech is 
simply the subject's speech, since true speech always operates by grounding 
the subject's speech in its mediation by another subject. In that way, this speech 
is open to the endless chain — which is not, of course, an indefinite chain, since 
it forms a closed loop — of words [paroles] in which the dialectic of recogni- 
tion is concretely realized in the human community. 

It is to the extent that the analyst manages to silence the intermediate dis- 
course in himself, in order to open himself up to the chain of true speech 
[paroles], that he can interpolate his revelatory interpretation. 

This can be seen whenever we consider an authentic interpretation in its 
concrete form. For example, in the analysis classically known as that of the 
Rat Man, the major turning point comes when Freud comprehends the resent- 
ment aroused in the subject by the fact that his mother suggested that his choice 
of a wife should be dictated in a calculating manner. The fact that the prohi- 
bition this advice brought with it for the subject, the prohibition against becom- 
ing engaged to the woman he thinks he loves, is associated by Freud with the 
father's speech, despite obvious facts to the contrary — especially the one, 
which takes precedence over all the others, that his father is dead — leaves us 
quite surprised. But it is justified at the level of a deeper truth that Freud seems 354 

to have unwittingly divined, which is revealed by the series of associations the 
subject then goes on to provide. This truth is situated solely in what Freud 
refers to here as the "word chain" — which, making itself heard both in the 
neurosis and in the subject's destiny, extends well beyond him as an individ- 
ual — and consists in the fact that a similar lack of good faith presided over his 
father's marriage and that this ambiguity itself covered over a breach of trust 
in money matters which, in causing his father to be discharged from the army, 
determined the latter's decision whom to marry. 

Now this chain, which is not made up of pure events (all of which had, in 
any case, occurred prior to the subject's birth), but rather of a failure (which 
was perhaps the most serious because it was the most subtle) to live up to the 
truth of speech and of an infamy more sullying to his honor — the debt engen- 
dered by the failure seeming to have cast its shadow over the whole of his par- 
ents' marriage, and the debt engendered by the infamy never having been 
paid — this chain provides the meaning by which we can understand the sim- 
ulacrum of redemption that the subject foments to the point of delusion in the 
course of the great obsessive trance that leads him to ask Freud for help. 

294 Ecrits 

Note that this chain is certainly not the whole structure of his obsessive 
neurosis, but that, in the text of the neurotic's individual myth, it crossbreeds 
with the web of fantasies in which the shadow of his dead father and the ideal 
of his lady-love are conjoined in a couple of narcissistic images. 

But if Freud's interpretation, by undoing this chain in all its latent import, 
leads the imaginary web of the neurosis to disintegrate, it is because this chain 
summons the subject, concerning the symbolic debt that is promulgated in his 
tribunal, less as its legatee than as its living witness. 

For it is important to consider that speech constitutes the subject's being 
not merely by a symbolic assumption, but that prior to his birth speech deter- 
mines — through the laws of marriage, by which the human order is distin- 
guished from nature — not only the subject's status but even the birth of his 
biological being. 

Now, it seems that Freud's access to the crucial point of the meaning with 
which the subject could literally decipher his destiny was made possible by the 
355 fact that a similar suggestion of familial prudence had been made to Freud 

himself, as we know from a fragment of his self-analysis, mentioned in his 
work, which was unmasked by Bernfeld. Had Freud himself not rejected it on 
that occasion, perhaps he might have missed the opportunity to recognize it 
when treating the Rat Man. 

The dazzling comprehension Freud demonstrates in such cases is, of 
course, clouded over often enough by the effects of his own narcissism. Still, 
owing nothing to an analysis conducted in the usual manner, it allows us to 
see that, in the lofty heights of his final doctrinal constructions, the paths of 
being were cleared for him. 

While this example makes us realize how important it is to comment upon 
Freud 's work in order to understand analysis, it will serve here only as a spring- 
board for the last stop in our discussion of this question — namely, the contrast 
between the objects proposed to the analyst by his experience and the discipline nec- 
essary to his training. 

Never having been fully conceptualized, or even approximately formulated, 
this contrast is nevertheless expressed, as we might well expect of any neg- 
lected truth, in the rebelliousness of the facts. 

The facts rebel first at the level of analytic experience, where no one gives 
voice to their rebellion better than Theodor Reik; we can confine our atten- 
tion here to his sounding of the alarm in his book Listening with the Third Ear, 34 
the "third ear" designating nothing other, no doubt, than the two at every man's 
disposal, on the condition that the function the Scriptures claim they do not 
have be restored to them. 

The reader will find there his reasons for opposing the requirement of a 

Variations on the Standard Treatment 295 

regular succession of levels of imaginary regression, whose principle was stip- 
ulated by the analysis of resistances, no less than the more systematic forms 
of planning* this kind of analysis went on to formulate — while he recalls, with 
a hundred lively examples, the pathway proper to true interpretation. One 
cannot, in reading his book, fail to note his recourse, that is unfortunately 
poorly defined, to divination, if the use of this term can refind its former virtue 
by evoking the juridical procedure it originally designated (Aulus Gellius,^mc 
Nights, II, 4), reminding us that human destiny depends upon the choice of 356 

he who will support speech's accusation in a trial. 

We will be no less concerned by the malaise that reigns regarding every- 
thing related to the analyst's training. To take but the most recent reverbera- 
tion, consider the declarations made in December 1952 by Dr. Knight in his 
presidential address to the American Psychoanalytic Association. 35 Among the 
factors that tend to "alter the character of analytic training," he points out, along- 
side the increase in the number of analysts-in- training, "the more structured 
training" in the institutes that offer training, opposing it to the earlier type of 
training by a master ("the earlier preceptorship type of training"*) [page 218]. 

Regarding the recruitment of analytic trainees, he says the following: 

[Formerly] they were primarily introspective individuals, inclined to be 
studious and thoughtful, and tended to be highly individualistic and to 
limit their social life to clinical and theoretical discussions with col- 
leagues. They read prodigiously and knew the psychoanalytic literature 
thoroughly. [. . .] In contrast, perhaps the majority of students of the 
past decade [. . .] are not so introspective, are inclined to read only the 
literature that is assigned in institute courses, and wish to get through 
with the training requirements as rapidly as possible. Their interests are 
primarily clinical rather than research and theoretical. Their motivation 
for being analyzed is more to get through this requirement of training. 
[. . .] The partial capitulation of some institutes [to the pressure arising 
from their students'] ambitious haste, and from their tendency to be sat- 
isfied with a more superficial grasp of theory, has created some of the 
training problems we now face [218-19]. 

It is quite clear, in this highly public discourse, how serious the problem is 
and also how poorly it is understood, if it is understood at all. What is desir- 
able is not that the analysands be more "introspective" but rather that they 
understand what they are doing; and the remedy is not that the institutes be 
less structured, but rather that analysts stop dispensing predigested knowl- 357 

edge in them, even if it summarizes the data of analytic experience. 

296 Ecrits 

But what we must understand above all is that, whatever the dose of knowl- 
edge thus transmitted, it is of no value in training analysts. 

For the knowledge accumulated in the course of an analyst's experience 
concerns the imaginary, which his experience constantly runs up against, so 
much so that his experience has come to adjust its pace to the systematic explo- 
ration of the imaginary in the subject. This experience has thus succeeded in 
constituting the natural history of the forms of desire 's capture and even of 
the subject's identifications that had never before been cataloged this rigor- 
ously in their richness or even approached in terms of their means of action, 
whether by science or even wisdom, even though their luxuriance and seduc- 
tion had long been deployed in artists' fanciful imaginings. 

But beyond the fact that the imaginary 's capture effects are extremely dif- 
ficult to objectify in a true discourse — creating the major obstacle to true dis- 
course in our daily work, which constantly threatens to make analysis into a 
bad science, given its continued uncertainty as to their limits in reality [reel] — 
this science, even if we assumed it were correct, is of only deceptive help in 
the analyst's action, for it concerns only the deposit, not the mainspring. 

In this respect, experience privileges neither the so-called "biological" ten- 
dency in analytic theory, which of course has nothing biological about it 
except the terminology, nor the sociological tendency sometimes referred 
to as "culturalist." The first tendency's ideal of "drive" harmony, based on 
individualist ethics, cannot, as it is easy to see, yield effects that are any more 
humanizing than the ideal of conformity to the group with which the sec- 
ond tendency exposes itself to the covetousness of "engineers of the soul." 
The difference one can see in their results derives only from the distance that 
separates an autoplastic graft from a member made of the orthopedic device 
that replaces it — what remains lame, in the first case, with regard to instinc- 
tual functioning (what Freud calls the "scar" of neurosis) leaves only an 
uncertain advantage over the compensatory artifice aimed at by the second's 

In truth, if analysis borders closely enough on the scientific domains thus 
358 evoked that certain of its concepts have been adopted by them, these concepts 

are not grounded in the experience of those domains, and the attempts analy- 
sis makes to get its experience naturalized in science remain in a state of sus- 
pension that leads analysis to be highly regarded in science only insofar as it 
is posited as a problem. 

For psychoanalysis is also a practice subordinated by its purpose to what is 
most particular about the subject. And when Freud emphasizes this, going so 
far as to say that analytic science must be called back into question in the analy- 
sis of each case (see the case of "The Wolf Man," passim, the entire discussion 

Variations on the Standard Treatment 297 

of the case unfolding on the basis of this principle), he quite clearly indicates 
to the analysand the path his training should follow. 

Indeed, the analyst cannot follow this path unless he recognizes in his own 
knowledge the symptom of his own ignorance, in the properly analytic sense 
that the symptom is the return of the repressed in a compromise [formation] 
and that repression, here as elsewhere, constitutes the censorship of truth. Igno- 
rance must not, in fact, be understood here as an absence of knowledge but, 
just as much as love and hate, as a passion for being — for it can, like them, be 
a path by which being forms. 

This is clearly the passion that must give meaning to all of analytic train- 
ing, as is obvious if one simply allows oneself to see that this passion structures 
the analytic situation. 

People have tried to detect the inner obstacle to training analysis in the psy- 
chological attitude of candidacy in which the candidate places himself in rela- 
tion to the analyst, but they fail to realize that the obstacle lies in its essential 
foundation, which is the desire to know or the desire for power that motivates 
the candidate at the core of his decision. Nor have they recognized that this 
desire must be treated like the neurotic's desire to love, which is the very antin- 
omy of love, according to the wisdom of the ages — unless this is what is aimed 
at by the best analytic writers when they declare that every training analysis is 
obliged to analyze the reasons why the candidate chose the career of analyst. 36 

The positive fruit of the revelation of ignorance is nonknowledge, which 
is not a negation of knowledge but rather its most elaborate form. The can- 
didate 's training cannot be completed without some action on the part of the 
master or masters who train him in this nonknowledge — failing which he will 359 

never be anything more than a robotic analyst. 

It is here that we understand this closing up of the unconscious whose 
enigma I pointed out at the major turning point of analytic technique; Freud 
foresaw, in more than just a quick remark, that this closing up could result 
some day from the very effects on a social scale of analysis becoming more 
widespread. 37 Indeed, the unconscious shuts down insofar as the analyst no 
longer "supports speech [porte la parole]" because he already knows or thinks 
he knows what speech has to say. Thus, if he speaks to the subject, who, more- 
over, knows as much about it as he does, the latter cannot recognize in what 
the analyst says the truth in statu nascendi of his own particular speech. This 
also explains the effects, which are often astonishing to us, of the interpreta- 
tions Freud himself gave: the response he gave the subject was the true speech 
in which he himself was grounded; for in order to unite two subjects in its 
truth, speech requires that it be true speech for both of them. 

This is why the analyst must aspire to a kind of mastery of his speech that 

2$8 Ecrits 

makes it identical to his being. For he does not need to say much in the treat- 
ment (so little, indeed, that we might believe there is no need for him to say 
anything) in order to hear — every time he has, with the help of God, that is, 
with the help of the subject himself, brought an analysis to its full term — the 
subject pronounce before him the very words in which he recognizes the law 
of his own being. 

How could he be surprised by this, he whose action, in the solitude in which 
he must answer for his patient, does not fall solely under the jurisdiction of con- 
sciousness [conscience], as they say of surgeons, since his technique teaches him 
that the very speech it reveals concerns an unconscious subject. Thus the ana- 
lyst must know, better than anyone else, that he can only be himself in his speech. 

Isn't this the answer to the question that tormented Ferenczi, namely: In 
order for the patient's avowal to come to its full term, mustn't the analyst's 
avowal also be pronounced? Indeed, the analyst's being acts even in his 
silence, and it is at the low-water level of the truth that sustains him that the 
subject proffers his speech. But while, in accordance with the law of speech, 
360 it is in him qua other that the subject finds his own identity, it is in order to 

maintain his own being there. 

This result is far removed from narcissistic identification, so finely 
described by Balint (see above), for such identification leaves the subject, in 
infinite beatitude, more than ever exposed to the obscene and ferocious fig- 
ure that analysis calls the superego and that must be understood as the gap 
opened up in the imaginary by any and every rejection (Verwerfung) of the 
commandments of speech. 38 

And there is no doubt but that a training analysis has this effect if the sub- 
ject finds therein nothing more proper to witness the authenticity of his expe- 
rience, for example, of having fallen in love with the person who opens the 
door at his analyst's house, mistaking her for his analyst's wife. A titillating 
fancy, of course, by its specious conformity, but about which he can hardly 
brag that he derived his lived knowledge of it from Oedipus, this knowledge 
being destined, rather, to take this fancy away from him. For, in going no fur- 
ther, he will have experienced nothing more than the myth of Amphitryon, 
and he will have done so the way Sosia did, that is, without understanding 
anything about it. How then can we expect that, as subtle as he may have seemed 
to be in his promises, such a subject will prove to be anything other than a fol- 
lower whose head is full of idle gossip, when it will be his turn to add his two 
cents' worth to the question of variations in treatment? 

In order to avoid such results, training analysis, about which all analytic 
authors note that its conditions are never discussed except in a censored form, 

Variations on the Standard Treatment 299 

must not drive its ends and practice ever further into the shadows, as the for- 
malism of the guarantees that people claim to provide of it grows stronger — 
as Michael Balint declares and demonstrates with the greatest clarity. 39 

Indeed, the sheer quantity of researchers cannot bring quality to psycho- 
analytic research the way it does in a science that is constituted in objectivity. 
A hundred mediocre psychoanalysts do not advance analytic knowledge one 
iota, whereas a physician, being the author of a wonderful book on grammar 
(you must not imagine that it was some pleasant little product of medical 
humanism), defended his whole life long a certain style of communication 
within a group of analysts against the winds of its discordance and the tide of 361 

its servitudes. 

The fact is that psychoanalysis, since it progresses essentially in non- 
knowledge, is tied in the history of science to a state prior to its Aristotelian 
definition, which is known as dialectic. Freud 's work bears witness to this in 
its references to Plato and even to the pre-Socratics. 

But far from being isolated or even isolable, it simultaneously finds its place 
at the center of the vast conceptual movement which in our time — restruc- 
turing so many sciences that are improperly called "social," changing or refind- 
ing the meaning of certain sections of the exact science par excellence, 
mathematics, in order to restore the foundations of a science of human action 
insofar as it is based on conjecture — is reclassifying the body of sciences of 
intersubjectivity under the name "human sciences." 

The analyst will find much to borrow from linguistic research in its most 
concrete modern developments, with which to shed light on difficult prob- 
lems posed to him by verbalization in both his practice and doctrine. And we 
can see, in the most unexpected manner, in the elaboration of the unconscious' 
most original phenomena — dreams and symptoms — the very figures of the 
outdated rhetoric, which prove in practice to provide the most subtle specifi- 
cations of those phenomena. 

The modern notion of history will be no less necessary to the analyst if he 
is to understand the function of history in the subject's individual life. 

But it is above all the theory of symbols — revived from its status as a curios- 
ity during what one might call the paleontological age of analysis, when it was 
classed under the heading of a supposed "depth psychology" — that analysis 
must restore to its universal function. No study would be better suited to this 
than the study of whole numbers, whose nonempirical origin cannot be exces- 
sively pondered by the analyst. And without going into the fruitful exercises 
of modern game theory, much less into the highly suggestive formalizations 
of set theory, the analyst will find sufficient material upon which to base his 

300 Ecrits 

362 practice by simply learning to correctly count to four, as the author of these 

lines is trying to teach people to do (that is, to integrate the function of death 
into the ternary Oedipal relationship). 

My point is not to define the fields of a program of study, but rather to indi- 
cate that, in order to situate analysis in the eminent place that those responsible 
for public education should grant it, its foundations must be laid open to criti- 
cism, without which it will degenerate into effects of collective subornation. 

It is up to the discipline of analysis itself to avoid these effects in the train- 
ing of analysts and to thus bring clarity to the question of its variations. 

Only then will we be able to understand the extreme discretion with which 
Freud introduced the very forms of the "standard treatment" that have since 
become the norm: 

I must however make it clear that what I am asserting is that this tech- 
nique is the only one suited to my individuality; I do not venture to deny 
that a physician quite differently constituted might find himself driven 
to adopt a different attitude to his patients and to the task before him. 40 

For this discretion will then cease to be relegated to the status of a sign of 
Freud 's profound modesty, and will instead be recognized as affirming the 
truth that analysis cannot find its measure except along the pathways of a 
learned ignorance. 


1. [Added in 1966:] In 1966 let us say that I [Added in 1966:] A French translation of the 
consider it to be abject. This assessment, which whole of this article can be found in the final 
I cannot help but pronounce, legitimates my pages of the collection of this author's work 
rewriting of the first section here in a lighter published under the title Technique de lapsych- 
manner. analyse (Paris: PUF, 1958). [In English, see The 

2. [Added in 1966:] Except in taking up Technique of Psycho-Analysis (New York: Inter- 
anew in the structure what specifies our "clin- national Universities Press, 1955)]. 

ical approach" [clinique], in the sense it still 5. Glover, "Therapeutic Criteria," 95-96. 

maintains from its moment of birth, an origi- 6. Glover, "Therapeutic Criteria," 96. Ital- 

nally repressed moment in the physician who ics in the original. 

extends it, he himself becoming ever more 7. Glover, "Therapeutic Criteria," 96. 

thoroughly the lost child of this moment. See 8. "Le probleme du transfert" ("The Prob- 

Michel Foucault, Naissance de la Clinique lem of Transference"), RFP XVI, 1-2(1952): 

(Paris: PUF, 1963) [The Birth of the Clinic 5-115. [A sample of Lagache's work on trans- 

(New York: Pantheon, 1973)]. ference can be found in English in "Some 

3. See 7/PXXXV, 2 (1954), the entire issue. Aspects of Transference," IJP XXXIV, 1 

4. Edward Glover, "Therapeutic Criteria of (1953): 1-10.] 

Psycho-Analysis," IJP XXXV, 2 (1954): 95. 9. [Added in 1966:] In 1966, Lagache is 

Variations on the Standard Treatment 


someone who keeps up with my teaching with- 
out seeing in it that transference is the inmix- 
ing of the time of knowing. 

While rewritten, this text scrupulously fol- 
lows the statements I made in 1955. 

10. [Added in 1966:] Three paragraphs 

11. [Added in 1966:] If I have managed with 
these lines, as with my classes, to lift the reign 
of boredom that I combat enough for their style 
of emission to self-correct in being reread here, 
let me add to them this note: in 1966, 1 would 
say that the ego is the theology of free enter- 
prise, and I would designate its patron saints as 
the triad Fenelon, Guizot, and Victor Cousin. 

1 2. Problemes de technique psychanalytique 
(Paris: PUF, 1953), 63. [In English, see Prob- 
lems of Psychoanalytic Technique (Albany: Psy- 
choanalytic Quarterly, 1941), 54.] 

13. Glover, "Therapeutic Criteria," 97. 

14. Wilhelm Reich, "Charakteranalyse" 
("Character Analysis"), Internationale Zeit- 
schriftfur Psychoanalyse XIV, 2 ( 1 928) : 1 80-96. 
English translation in The Psycho-analytic 
Reader (New York: International Universities 
Press, 1948). [See also Reich's book Character 
Analysis (New York: Farrar, Straus and 
Giroux, 1972).] 

15. Richard Sterba, "The Fate of the Ego in 
Analytic Therapy," IJP XV, 2-3 (1934): 

16. W. Hoffer, "Three Psychological Crite- 
ria for the Termination of Treatment," IJP 
XXXI, 3 (1950): 194-95. 

17. Sandor Ferenczi, "Die Elastizitat der 
psychoanalytischen Technik," Internationale 
Zeitschrift fur Psychoanalyse XIV, 2 (1928): 
197-209. [In English, see "The Elasticity of 
Psycho- Analytic Technique," in The Selected 
Papers of Sandor Ferenczi, M.D., Vol. Ill, Final 
Contributions to the Problems and Methods of 
Psycho- Analysis (New York: Basic Books, 1 955), 
87-101. Note that Lacan renders Einfilhlung as 
connivence (connivance), not as "empathy" (or 
"understanding" or "sensitivity") as is usually 
the case and as it is rendered in the translation 
of Ferenczi's work cited here. See also the revised 
translation included in Sandor Ferenczi: Selected 
Writings (London: Penguin, 1999), 255-68.] 

18. [Added in 1966:] That is, the analyst's 

1 9. Freud, "Die Endliche und die Unendliche 
Analyse," GJFXVI,93 ["Analysis Terminable 
and Interminable," SE XXIII, 247; Lacan here 
translates the title of the article as " U analyse 
finie et Vanalyse sans fin" "Finite (or Finished) 
Analysis and Endless Analysis."] 

20. Ferenczi, "Die Elastizitat der psychoan- 
alytischen Technik," 207. ["The Elasticity of 
Psycho-analytic Technique," 98.] 

21. [Added in 1966:] Ferenczi never imag- 
ined that this might one day serve as a billboard 

22. Reich, "Charakteranalyse," 196 [The 
Psycho-analytic Reader , 123]. 

23. Freud, "Triebe und Triebschicksale," 
GJFX, 210-32. ["Drives and Their Vicissi- 
tudes," SEXIV, 117-40, especially 122-23.] 

24. GJFXIII, 71-161 [SE XVIII, 69-143]. 

25. CJFXIII, 1-69 [SE XVIII, 7-64]. 

26. "Die Verneinung," GW XIV, 11-15 
["Negation," SE XIX, 235-39]. 

27. CJFXIV, 421-506 [SEXXl, 64-145]. 

28. Lacan, "Aggressiveness in Psycho- 
analysis" (1948) and "The Mirror Stage" 
(1949), in Ecrits 1966. 

29. M. Balint, "On the Termination of 
Analysis," 7/PXXXI, 3 (1950): 197. 

30. M. Balint, "On Love and Hate," in Pri- 
mary Love and Psychoanalytic Technique (Lon- 
don: Hogarth, 1952), 155. [The article is also 
found in IJP XXXIII (1952): 355-62; see espe- 
cially 361-62.] 

31. A. Balint, "Love for the Mother and 
Mother-Love," ///>XXX,4 (1949): 251-59. [I 
have corrected the mistaken attribution of this 
article to Michael Balint instead of to Alice 
Balint in the footnotes and text.] 

32. M. Balint, "Changing Therapeutic Aims 
and Techniques in Psycho- Analysis," IJP 
XXXI, 1-2 (1950). See his remarks on the 
"two-body psychology" on pages 123-24. 

33. See the appendix to her abovementioned 
article, "Love for the Mother." 

34. New York: Garden City Books, 1949. 
[Published in Great Britain as The Inner Expe- 
rience of a Psychoanalyst (London: George 
Allen &Unwin, 1949).] 



35. R. P. Knight, "The Present Status of 
Organized Psychoanalysis in the United 
States," Journal of the American Psychoanalytic 
Association I, 2 (1953): 197-221. 

36. Maxwell Gitelson, "Therapeutic Prob- 
lems in the Analysis of the 'Normal' Candi- 
date," 7/PXXXV, 2 (1954): 174-83. 

37. Freud, "Die zukiinftigen Chancen der 
psychoanalytischen Therapie" (1910), GW 
VIII, 104-15 ["The Future Prospects of Psy- 
cho-Analytic Therapy," SEXl, 141-51]. 

38. Freud, "Aus der Geschichte einer infan- 
tilen Neurose," G JFXII, 1 1 1 ["From the His- 
tory of an Infantile Neurosis (the Wolf Man)," 
SffXVII, 79-80]. 

39. M. Balint, "Analytic Training and Train- 
ing Analysis," 7/PXXXV, 2 (1954): 157-62. 

40. Freud, "Ratschlage fur den Arzt bei der 
psychoanalytischen Behandlung," GJFVIII, 
376 ["Recommendations to Physicians Prac- 
tising Psycho-Analysis," SE XII, 111. Lacan 
provides his own French translation here]. 

On a Purpose 3 6 3 

The two samples of my seminar that follow inspire me to give the reader 
some idea of the purpose of my teaching. 

These texts still bear traces of the violent novelty they brought with 
them. One can gauge how great a risk I ran at that time by observing that 
the subjects they deal with have yet to be taken up by others, even though 
I provided an elaboration of them which I have continued to corroborate 
through critique and construction. 

In rereading these texts, I am happy to see that I highlighted the repres- 
sion that struck the word "signor," which was recently echoed by a ques- 
tion that was posed to me about the locus where the forgotten term 
resides — to put it more precisely in the terms of my topology: Is that locus 
"the dummy" mentioned later in my "Direction of the Treatment" or the 
Other's discourse as formulated in "Function and Field"? 

To this work in progress let me add the personal difficulties that make 
it hard for someone to grasp a notion like that of Verwerfung [foreclosure] 
when he himself may be characterized by it. This is an everyday tragedy 
which serves as a reminder that my teaching, although it exposes its the- 
ory to everyone, has as its practical stakes the training of psychoanalysts. 

How influential is my teaching? Let us approach the question by first 
considering that the two pieces presented here were published in the first 
issue, which is now out of print, of the journal La Psychanalyse, the room 

304 Ecrits 

my texts took up in it measuring only imperfectly, by their very excess, 
the work I put into it. 

How can we evaluate what was required, due to the ever composite 
nature of such an undertaking, on the terrain of an exigency whose status 
I shall state? 

It would not be the whole story to note that such invective earth-mov- 
ing, were it to stir up dust here, would still be relevant. 
3 64 I would also maintain that the tenor of this journal stopped French cir- 

cles from sliding down the slippery slope seen in international psychoan- 
alytic congresses. I occasionally receive news from abroad of people 's 
astonishment at its collapse. 

It goes without saying that the journal was disavowed in psychoana- 
lytic circles right from its very introduction. 

Nothing in it goes beyond or goes against the order of importance that 
I have recently captured with a pun of my own making: poubellication. 

The two texts that follow here warrant further consideration since they 
are representative of the kind of work done in my Seminar, having framed 
the contribution that Jean Hyppolite, who was one of my auditors at the 
time, was willing to make at my request in the form of a commentary on 
Freud's paper entitled "Verneinung" ("Negation"). 

The reader will find his commentary in an appendix to the present vol- 
ume, permission for its reproduction having been graciously granted by 
its author. The latter would like its character as a memorial to be clear, 
and the reader will see that the efforts made to preserve its character as a 
set of notes obviate any and all misunderstanding, but also thereby its value 
for us. 

For it was by allowing himself to be led in this way by the letter of 
Freud's work, up to the spark that it necessitates, without selecting a des- 
tination in advance — and by not backing away from the residue, found 
anew at the end, of its enigmatic point of departure, and even by not con- 
sidering that he had accounted, at the end of the proceedings, for the aston- 
ishment by which he entered into the proceedings — that a tried and true 
logician brought me the guarantee of what constituted my request, when 
for the preceding three years already I had been legitimating my work as 
a literal commentary on Freud 's work. 

The requirement to read does not take up as much space in the culture 
of psychoanalysis as one might think. 

There is nothing superstitious in my privileging the letter of Freud's 
work. It is in circles where liberties are taken with that letter that people 

On a Purpose jo5 

render that letter sacred in a way that is altogether compatible with its 
debasement to routinized use. 

Freud 's discovery shows the structural reason why the literality of any 
text, whether proposed as sacred or profane, increases in importance the 
more it involves a genuine confrontation with truth. 

That structural reason is found precisely in what the truth that it bears, 
that of the unconscious, owes to the letter of language — that is, to what I 
call "the signifier." 

While this incidentally accounts for Freud's quality as a writer, it is 365 

above all decisive in interesting psychoanalysts as much as possible in lan- 
guage and in what language determines in the subject. 

Herein too lies the motive for the collaborations I obtained for the first 
issue of my journal La Psychanalyse: Martin Heidegger's for his article 
entitled "Logos" — even if I had to be so audacious as to translate it 
myself — and Emile Benveniste's for his critique of one of Freud's refer- 
ences, which was eminent in proving to be governed by language at the 
deepest level of the affective realm. 

Therein lay my motive, and not in some vain semblance of dialogue, 
even and especially philosophical: We need not, in psychoanalysis, 
broaden people 's minds. 

All of the illustrious neighboring fields that I brought together at cer- 
tain moments in lectures designed to further my purpose were destined 
by the structuralist nature of their own tasks to accentuate that purpose 
for us. It should be indicated that the exceptional stupidity that put an end 
to them, taking umbrage at them, had already quashed the undertaking 
by seeing in it nothing but propaganda. 

What thus impels the psychoanalyst to cast his anchor elsewhere? If 
approaching the repressed is accompanied by resistances that indicate the 
degree of repression, as Freud tells us, this implies at the very least that 
there is a close relationship between the two terms. This relationship is 
borne out here by functioning in the opposite direction. 

The truth effect that is delivered up in the unconscious and the symp- 
tom requires that knowledge adopt an inflexible discipline in following its 
contours, for these contours run counter to intuitions that keep it all too 
comfortably safe. 

This truth effect culminates in a veiled irreducibility in which the pri- 
macy of the signifier is stamped, and we know from Freud 's doctrine that 
nothing real shares in this more than sex. But the subject's foothold there 
can only be overdetermined: Desire is the desire to know, aroused by a 

So6 Ecrits 

cause connected with a subject's formation, owing to which this connec- 
tion is related to sex only through an awkward detour [biais] — an expres- 
sion in which the reader can recognize the topology with which I try to 
close in on that cause. 

This makes it necessary to render present a hole which can no longer 
be situated in the transcendental nature of knowledge [connaissance] — a 
locus that is, in sum, designed to simply move it back a step — but only in 
a place which is closer that pressures us to forget it. 

This is the place where being, which is so inclined to flee its jouissance 

366 that it shows itself in the process, nevertheless does not assume, even in a 

less permanent way, that it has rightful access to it — a pretension that 

escapes being comical due only to the anxiety provoked by the experience 

that deflates it. 

Curiously enough, Freud's success can be explained on the basis of this 
impasse; people capitulate when they understand his success so as not to 
encounter this impasse, and "his language" — as people say to reduce dis- 
course to the verbal — appears in statements involving a "we" [on] that 
most thoroughly flees the light of day. 

Who will be surprised, outside of this "we," that psychoanalysts attrib- 
ute the same success to Freud when — engaging in a sort of sucking of his 
thought through the gap that opens up in his thought, which is so much 
closer in that it takes on, in his practice, the insistence of an indecent inti- 
macy — this gap redoubles analysts' horror by usually forcing them to 
engage in the morose operation of obstructing it? 

This is why no one any longer deals with each delicate joint that Freud 
borrows from the most subtle aspects of language [langue], without pour- 
ing into them beforehand the confused images into which the worst trans- 
lations run headlong. 

In short, people read Freud in the same way that they write in psy- 
choanalysis — enough said. 

One can thus see that the watchword I adopted, a "return to Freud," 
has nothing to do with a return to the sources that could, here as else- 
where, signify no more than a regression. 

Even if the point were to correct a deviation from Freud that is too 
obvious not to be apparent at every crossroads, I would merely be mak- 
ing way for an external, albeit salubrious, necessity. 

My return to Freud has an entirely different meaning insofar as it is 
based on the subject's topology, which can only be elucidated through a 
second twist back [tour] on itself. Everything about it must be restated on 
another side so that what it hones in on can be closed, which is certainly 

On a Purpose soy 

not absolute knowledge but rather the position from which knowledge 
can reverse truth effects. It is, no doubt, on the basis of a suture that was 
made at one moment at this joint that what we have absolutely achieved 
by way of science was assured. Isn't that also enough to tempt us to under- 
take a new operation where this joint remains gaping in our lives? 

This double twist [tour], of which I provide the theory, lends itself, in 
effect, to another seam by offering up a new edge [bord] : a seam from which 
arises a structure that is far more apt than Antiquity's sphere to answer 367 

for what proposes itself to the subject as an inside and an outside. 1 

When Freud, in a famous text, presents Ananke and Logos together, 
should we believe that he does so because he enjoys the effect created or 
to restore a firm footing to the rabble [pied-plat] by holding out for them 
the step down to earth? 

The formidable power that Freud invokes — awakening us from the 
sleep in which we weaken it — great Necessity, is no other than that which 
is exercised in the Logos, which he was the first to clarify with the glanc- 
ing light of his discovery. 

It is repetition itself whose face he, as much as Kierkegaard, renews for 
us in the division of the subject, the fate of scientific man. Let another con- 
fusion be dispelled: it bears no relation to Nietzsche's "eternal return." 

Repetition is unique in being necessary, and should I be unable to tame 
the repetition for which I assume responsibility, my index would command 
it to continue. 



1. As I began to establish the very year (1961—1962) that my students concerned them- 
selves with the same relationship (inside-outside) in a more worldly context. Whereby 
others will benefit from the fact that I returned to it this year (1965—1966). 

369 Introduction to Jean Hyppolite 's Commentary 

on Freud's "Verneinung" 

Seminar on Freudian Technique, February 10th, 1954 x 

You have been able to gauge how fruitful my method of returning to Freud's 
texts proves to be for providing a critical examination of the current use of 
the fundamental concepts of psychoanalytic technique and especially of the 
notion of resistance. 

The adulteration this latter notion has undergone is all the more serious 
because of the order that Freud consecrated with his own authority to give 
pride of place in psychoanalytic technique to the analysis of resistances. For 
although Freud intended to mark thereby a turning point in psychoanalytic 
practice, I believe that there is nothing but confusion and misinterpretation in 
the way in which people justify a technique that misrecognizes nothing less 
than what it is applied to on the basis of an emergency measure. 

The question is that of the meaning that we must restore to the precepts of 
this technique which, since they will soon be reduced to fixed formulas, have 
lost the indicative virtue that they can only preserve through an authentic com- 
prehension of the truth of the experience they are designed to guide. Freud, 
of course, could not but have such a comprehension, like those who immerse 
themselves in his work. But, as you have had the opportunity to see, this is not 
370 the case of those in our discipline who noisily seek refuge behind the primacy 

of technique — no doubt in order to hide behind the simultaneous harmoniz- 
ing of their technique with progress in the theory, in the dumbed-down usage 
of analytic concepts which alone can justify their technique. 

One will be quite disappointed if one attempts to look a little more closely 

Introduction to Jean Hyppolite's Commentary on Freud's "Verneinung" 309 

at what the analysis of resistances represents in the dominant usage. For what 
strikes one first in reading the work of the doctrinaires of this perspective is 
that the dialectical handling of any idea whatsoever is so unthinkable to them 
that they cannot even recognize it when they are thrown into it — like Mon- 
sieur Jourdain was when he spoke in prose without realizing it — by a practice 
in which dialectic is in fact immanent. Thus they cannot reflect upon it with- 
out latching in panic onto the most simplistic or the most grossly imaginative 

This is why resistance comes to be imagined rather than conceptualized by 
them according to what it connotes in its average semantic usage 2 — namely, 
if we examine this usage closely, in the indefinite transitive acceptation. 
Thanks to which the phrase "the subject resists" is understood as "he resists 
something." What does he resist? No doubt he resists his tendencies in the 
way he forces himself to behave as a neurotic subject, and resists avowing them 
in the justifications he proposes for his behavior to the analyst. But since the 
tendencies come back in force, and since the analyst's technique had some- 
thing to do with it, this resistance is presumed to be seriously tried; hence, in 
order to maintain it, he must work at it and, before we even have the chance 
to turn around, we have slipped into the rut of the obtuse idea that the patient 
"is being defensive." For the misinterpretation is only definitively sealed due 
to its conjunction with another misuse of language, the one that gives the term 
"defense" the carte blanche it has in medicine, without us realizing — for one 
does not become a better physician by being a bad psychoanalyst — that there 371 

is a misunderstanding in medicine too regarding the notion if we intend to 
echo its correct meaning in physiopathology. And we betray no less — for one 
becomes no better instructed in psychoanalysis by being ignorant in medi- 
cine — the perfectly well-informed application Freud made of it in his first writ- 
ings on the pathogenesis of the neuroses. 

But, people will ask us, by centering your aim of grasping a confused idea 
at its lowest point of disintegration, don't you fall into the trap of condemn- 
ing the patient, not for his acts, but for intentions you attribute to him [proces 
de tendance]} The fact is, I will answer, that nothing stops the users of a tech- 
nique thus fitted out from sliding down this dangerous slope, for the precepts 
with which they parry its original confusion do not in any wise remedy its 
consequences. This is what allows people to proffer the following: that the 
subject can communicate to us only about his ego and with his ego (here we 
see the defiant look of common sense that comes home to roost); that it is 
necessary, in order to get anywhere, to strengthen the ego or at least, they 
correct themselves, its healthy part (and heads nod in assent at this tomfool- 
ery); that in the use of analytic material we proceed by following blueprints 

310 Ecrits 

(of which we have, of course, the certified plans in our pocket); that we pro- 
ceed thusly from the surface to the depths (no putting the cart before the 
horse); that in order to do so the masters' secret is to analyse the subject's 
aggressiveness (no attaching a cart which would kill the horse); here, finally, 
are the dynamics of anxiety and the arcanes of its economy (let no one touch 
the potential of this sublime mana if he is not an expert in hydraulics). All 
these precepts, let it be said, and their theoretical trappings shall be ignored 
here because they are simply macaronic. 

In effect, resistance can but be misrecognized in its essence if it is not under- 
stood on the basis of the dimensions of the discourse in which it manifests itself 
in analysis. We encountered them right away in the metaphor with which Freud 
illustrated his first definition of resistance. I mean the one I commented on 
some time ago which evokes the staves on which the subject unfolds the chains 
372 of his discourse "longitudinally," to use Freud 's term, according to a musical 

score whose "pathogenic nucleus" is the leitmotiv. 3 In the reading of this score, 
resistance manifests itself "radially" — a term which is opposed to the preceding 
term ["longitudinally"] — and with a strength proportional to the proximity 
of the line being deciphered to the line that delivers the central melody by 
completing it. So much so that this strength, Freud stresses, can serve as a meas- 
ure of this proximity. 

Certain analysts even tried to find in this metaphor an indication of the 
mechanistic tendency with which Freud 's thought is supposedly shackled. This 
attempt evinces a complete lack of comprehension, as can be seen in the research 
I have carried out step-by-step into the successive clarifications Freud gave to 
the notion of resistance, especially in the writing we are now considering in 
which he gives the clearest formulation of it. 

What does Freud tell us, in fact? He reveals to us a phenomenon that 
structures every revelation of truth in the [psychoanalytic] dialogue. There is 
the fundamental difficulty that the subject encounters in what he has to say; the 
most common is the one that Freud demonstrated in repression, namely, the 
sort of discordance between the signified and the signifier that is brought on 
by all censorship of social origin. The truth can always, in this case, be com- 
municated between the lines. That is, he who wishes to make the truth known 
can always adopt the technique indicated by the fact that truth is identical to 
the symbols that reveal it; in other words, he can always arrive at his ends by 
deliberately introducing into a text discordances that cryptographically cor- 
respond to those imposed by the censorship. 

The true subject — that is, the subject of the unconscious — proceeds no 
differently in the language of his symptoms; that language is not so much 
deciphered by the analyst as it comes to be more and more solidly addressed 

Introduction to Jean Hyppolite 's Commentary on Freud 's " Verneinung" 311 

to him, for the ever renewed satisfaction of analytic experience. Indeed, this 
is what analysis recognized in the phenomenon of transference. 

What the subject who speaks says, however empty his discourse may at first 
be, derives its effect from the approximation made in it on the basis of speech 
in which he tries to fully convert the truth expressed by his symptoms. Let me 
indicate right away that this formulation is of more general import, as we shall 
see today, than the phenomenon of repression by which I just introduced it. 

Be that as it may, it is insofar as the subject arrives at the limit of what the 373 

moment allows his discourse to effectuate by way of speech, that a phenom- 
enon is produced in which, as Freud shows us, resistance is linked to the psy- 
choanalytic dialectic. For this moment and this limit are balanced in the 
emergence, outside of the subject's discourse, of the trait that can most par- 
ticularly be addressed to you in what he is in the process of saying. And this 
juncture is raised to the function of the punctuation of his speech. In order to 
convey this effect I have used the image that the subject's speech suddenly 
swings toward the presence of the listener. 4 

This presence, which is the purest relationship the subject can have with a 
being and which is all the more deeply felt as such since this being is for him 
less qualified, this presence, momentarily freed to the utmost from the veils 
that cover it over and elude it in everyday discourse insofar as the latter is con- 
stituted as "they" [on] discourse precisely for this purpose, this presence is 
marked in discourse by a suspensive scansion often connoted by a moment of 
anxiety, as I have shown you in an example from my own experience. 

Hence the import of the indication that Freud gave us from his own expe- 
rience: namely, that when the subject interrupts his discourse you can be sure 
that a thought is occupying him that is related to the analyst. 

You will see this indication most often confirmed if you ask the subject the 
following question: "What are you thinking about right now that is related to 
what is around you here and more precisely to me who is listening to you?" 
Still, the inner satisfaction you may derive from hearing more or less unflat- 
tering remarks about your general appearance and your mood that day, about 
your taste as denoted by your choice of furniture or the way in which you are 
dressed, does not suffice to justify your initiative if you do not know what you 
are expecting from these remarks, and the idea — which for many is a received 
idea — that these remarks give the subject the opportunity to discharge his 
aggression is utterly idiotic. 

As Freud said prior to the elaboration of the new topography, resistance is 374 

essentially an ego phenomenon. Let us try to understand here what that 
means. This will allow us later to understand what we mean by resistance when 
we relate it to the subject's other agencies. 

312 Ecrits 

The phenomenon in question here shows one of the purest forms in which 
the ego can manifest its function in the dynamic of analysis. This is why it 
makes us realize that the ego, as it operates in analytic experience, has noth- 
ing to do with the supposed unity of the subject's reality that so-called gen- 
eral psychology abstracts as instituted in its "synthetic functions." The ego 
we are talking about is absolutely impossible to distinguish from the imagi- 
nary captures that constitute it from head to toe — in both its genesis and its 
status, in both its function and its actuality — by an other and for an other. Stated 
differently, the dialectic that sustains our experience, being situated at the most 
enveloping level of the subject's efficacy, obliges us to understand the ego 
entirely in the movement of progressive alienation in which self-conscious- 
ness is constituted in Hegel's phenomenology. 

This means that if, in the moment we are studying, you are dealing with the 
subject's ego*, it is because you are at that moment the prop for his alter ego. 

I have reminded you that one of our colleagues — who has since been cured 
of this pruritus of thought which still tormented him at the time when he was 
cogitating about the cases in which psychoanalysis is indicated as a treatment — 
was seized by a suspicion of this truth; the miracle of intelligence illuminat- 
ing his face, he ended his talk regarding these indications by announcing the 
great news that analysis had to be subordinated to the primary condition that 
the subject have some sense of the existence of the other. 

It is precisely here that the question begins: What is the kind of alterity by 
which the subject is interested in this existence? For the subject's ego par- 
takes of this very alterity, so much so that if there is something to be known 
[une connaissance] which is truly classificatory for the analyst — and of a kind 
that can satisfy the requirement of having a preliminary orientation that the 
new technique proclaims with a tone that is all the more hilarious since it 
375 misrecognizes it right to the very core — it is the thing which in each neurotic 

structure defines the sector that is open to the ego's* alibis. 

In short, what we expect from the subject's reply in asking him this stereo- 
typical question, which most often frees him from the silence that serves us as 
a signal of this privileged moment of resistance, is that he show us who is 
speaking and to whom — which is, in fact, one and the same question. 

But it remains up to you to get him to understand it by questioning him in 
the imaginary place where he is situated; this will depend on whether or not 
you can tie the [unflattering] jibe [he makes at that moment of resistance] to 
the point in his discourse where his speech ground to a halt. 

You will thereby confirm this point as a correct punctuation. And it is here 
that the analysis of resistances and the analysis of the material, whose oppo- 

Introduction to Jean Hyppolite's Commentary on Freud's "Verneinung" jzj 

sition it would be ruinous to formally endorse, harmoniously converge. This 
is a technique in which you are given practical training in supervision. 

To those who have nevertheless learned another technique, the systemat- 
ics of which I know only too well, and who still lend it some credence, I would 
observe that you of course will not fail to obtain a relevant response by point- 
ing out the subject's aggression toward you and even by showing some mod- 
icum of finesse in recognizing therein, by way of contrast, the "need for love." 
And after thus plying your art, the field of defense 's ploys will open up before 
you. Big deal! Don't we know that where speech gives up, the domain of vio- 
lence begins, and that violence reigns there already without us even provok- 
ing it? 

Thus, if you bring war to it, you should at least be aware of its principles 
and realize that we misrecognize its limits when we do not understand it, as 
Clausewitz does, as a particular form of human commerce. 

We know that it was by recognizing, by the name of total war, its internal 
dialectic that Clausewitz was able to formulate that war is in command because 
it is considered to be an extension of political expedients. 

This has allowed more advanced practitioners in the modern experience of 
social warfare, to which he served as a prelude, to formulate the corollary that 
the first rule to be observed is not to allow the moment at which the adver- 
sary becomes other than he was to slip away — which means that we should 
rapidly divide up the stakes that form the basis of an equitable peace. It has 376 

been made amply clear to your generation that this art is unknown to dema- 
gogues who can no more detach themselves from abstractions than your ordi- 
nary psychoanalyst can. This is why the very wars they win serve only to 
engender contradictions in which one can rarely perceive the effects that they 
promised would be achieved thereby. 

Hence they throw themselves headlong into the undertaking of humaniz- 
ing the adversary who has become their responsibility through his defeat — 
even calling the psychoanalyst to the rescue to collaborate in restoring 
"human relations,"* a task in which the analyst, given the pace at which he 
now pursues things, does not hesitate to go astray. 

None of this seems irrelevant when we rediscover, at a turning point, Freud 's 
note (in the same text) about which I have already spoken, and this perhaps 
sheds new light on what Freud means when he says that one must not infer, 
on the basis of a battle that is waged sometimes for months around an isolated 
farm, that the farm itself represents the national sanctuary of one of the war- 
ring parties, or even that it shelters one of their military industries. In other 
words, the meaning of a defensive or offensive action is not to be found in the 

314 Ecrits 

object that is apparently fought over, but rather in the plan it forms a part of, 
which defines the adversary by his strategy. 

The gallows humor evinced in the morosity of the analysis of the defenses 
would no doubt bear more encouraging fruit for those who trust in it if they 
simply took their cue from the smallest real struggle, which would teach them 
that the most effective response to a defense is not to bring to bear upon it the 
test of strength. 

What they in fact do — instead of confining themselves to the dialectical 
pathways by which psychoanalysis has been elaborated, and lacking the tal- 
ent necessary to return to the pure and simple use of suggestion — is merely 
resort to a pedantic form of suggestion, taking advantage of our culture 's ambi- 
ent psychologism. In doing so, they offer up to their contemporaries the spec- 
tacle of people who were drawn to their profession by nothing other than the 
desire to always be able to have the last word, and who, when they encounter 
a little more difficulty than in other so-called professional [liberates] activities, 
377 sport the ridiculous face of Purgons, obsessed as they are by the "defense" of 

whomsoever does not understand why his daughter is mute. 

But in so doing they merely enter the dialectic of the ego and the other 
that constitutes the neurotic's impasse and renders his situation of a piece 
with the analyst's biased belief [prejuge] in his ill will. This is why I some- 
times say that there is no other resistance in analysis than that of the analyst. 
For this biased belief can only give way through a true dialectical conver- 
sion, a conversion that must, moreover, be maintained in the analyst by con- 
tinual use. This is what all the conditions of the training of a psychoanalyst 
truly come down to. 

Without such training this bias [prejuge], which has found its most stable 
formulation in the conception of pithiatism, will remain forever dominant. 
But other formulations had preceded it and I merely want to infer what Freud 
thought of it by recalling his feelings about its latest incarnation during his 
youth. I will extract his testimony about it from Chapter 4 of his great text, 
Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego. He speaks there of Bernheim's 
astonishing tours deforce with suggestion, which he witnessed in 1899. 

But I can remember even then feeling a muffled hostility to this tyranny 
of suggestion. When a patient who showed himself unamenable was met 
with a shout: "What are you doing? Vous vous contre-suggestionne{/ 9i , I 
said to myself that this was an evident injustice and an act of violence. 
For the man certainly had a right to countersuggestions if people were 
trying to subdue him with suggestions. Later on my resistance took 
the direction of protesting against the view that suggestion, which 

Introduction to Jean Hyppolite's Commentary on Freud's "Verneinung" ji5 

explained everything, was itself to be exempt from explanation. Think- 
ing of it, I repeated the old conundrum: 

Christopher bore Christ; Christ bore the whole world; 

Say, where did Christopher then put his foot? [SE XVIII, 89] 

And given that Freud goes on to deplore the fact that the concept of sug- 
gestion has drifted in an ever vaguer direction, which does not allow us to 378 
foresee the clarification of the phenomenon any time soon, what mightn't he 
have said about the current usage of the notion of resistance? How could he 
not have encouraged, at the very least, my efforts to tighten up its use in ana- 
lytic technique? In any case, my way of reintegrating it into the whole of the 
dialectical movement of an analysis is perhaps what will allow me to someday 
provide a formulation of suggestion that will stand up to the criteria of ana- 
lytic experience. 

This is the aim that guides me when I shed light on resistance at the moment 
of transparency at which it presents itself by its transferential end, to borrow 
an apt expression from Octave Mannoni. 

This is why I shed light on it with examples in which one can see the same 
dialectical syncope at work. 

This led me to highlight the example with which Freud illustrates, almost 
acrobatically, what he means by the desire in a dream. 5 For while he provides 
this example in order to cut short the objection that a dream undergoes alter- 
ation when it is recollected in the narrative, it appears quite clearly that only 
the elaboration of the dream interests him insofar as it is carried out in the nar- 
rative itself — in other words, the dream has no value for him except as a vec- 
tor of speech. Hence all the phenomena that he furnishes of forgetting, and 
even of doubt, which block the narrative must be interpreted as signifiers in 
this speech. And were there to remain of a dream but a fragment as evanes- 
cent as the memory floating in the air of the Cheshire cat who fades away in 
such a worrisome manner in Alice 's eyes, this would simply render more cer- 
tain that we have here the broken end of what constitutes the dream's trans- 
ferential tip — in other words, the part of the dream that directly addresses the 
analyst. Here this occurs by means of the word "channel," the sole vestige 
remaining of the dream — namely, a smile here too, but this time a woman's 
impertinent smile, with which she to whom Freud took the trouble to give a 
taste of his theory of jokes paid homage to it — which is translated by the sen- 
tence that concludes the funny story that she associates, at Freud 's invitation, 
to the word "channel": "Du sublime au ridicule il n'y a qu'un pas" ("From 
the sublime to the ridiculous there is but one step"). 

Similarly, in the example of the forgetting of names which I just recently 379 

3i6 Ecrits 

examined, it being literally the first that came along, in The Psychopathology 
of Everyday Life? I was able to discern that Freud's inability to find the name 
Signorelli in the dialogue he carried on with his colleague who was his trav- 
eling companion at that time, corresponded to the fact that — by censoring ear- 
lier in the conversation with the same gentleman everything that this man's 
remarks had stirred up in him both by their content and by memories that came 
in their wake, regarding the relationship of man and doctor to death, the 
absolute master, Herr^ signor — Freud had literally left in his partner, excised 
[retranche] from himself therefore, the broken half (to be understood in the 
most material sense of the term) of the sword of speech. For a little while, pre- 
cisely the time during which he continued to speak with this partner, he could 
no longer have this term as signifying material at his disposal since it remained 
attached to the repressed signification — especially since the theme of the work 
he needed to find anew in Signorelli, the author, namely, the fresco of the 
Antichrist at Orvieto, simply illustrated the mastery of death in one of the 
most manifest, albeit apocalyptic, forms. 

But can we confine our attention to repression here? I can, of course, assure 
you that repression is at work here thanks to the overdeterminations Freud him- 
self supplies us with regarding the phenomenon; and we can also confirm here, 
thanks to the relevance of these circumstances, the import of what I want to 
convey to you with the formulation, "the unconscious is the Other's discourse." 

For the man who breaks the bread of truth with his semblable in the act of 
speech shares a lie. 

But is that the whole story? Could the speech that was excised [retranchee] 
here avoid being extinguished before being-toward-death when speech 
approached it at a level at which only witticisms are still viable, appearances 
of seriousness no longer seeming to be anything but hypocritical in respond- 
ing to its gravity? 

Hence death brings the question of what negates [nie] discourse, but also 

the question whether or not it is death that introduces negation into discourse. 

For the negativity of discourse, insofar as it brings into being that which is 

380 not, refers us to the question of what nonbeing, which manifests itself in the 

symbolic order, owes to the reality of death. 

It is in this way that the axis of poles by which a first field of speech was 
oriented, whose primordial image is the material of the tessera (in which one 
finds anew the etymology of the symbol), is crossed here by a second dimen- 
sion which is not repressed but of necessity a lure. This is the dimension from 
which, alongside nonbeing, the definition of reality arises. 

Thus we already see the cement crumble, the cement with which the so- 

Introduction to Jean Hyppolite's Commentary on Freud's "Verneinung" jiy 

called new technique ordinarily plugs up its cracks by resorting to the rela- 
tionship to reality [reel], without in any way critiquing the notion. 

In order to get you to see that such critique is part and parcel of Freud's 
thought, I didn't think I could do any better than to confide the demonstra- 
tion to Jean Hyppolite who not only graces this seminar with his kind inter- 
est, but who, by his very presence, also in some sense guarantees you that I 
don't go astray in my dialectic. 

I asked him to comment on a text by Freud that is very short, but that, being 
situated in 1925 — in other words, much further along in the development of 
Freud's thought, since it comes after the main writings on the new topogra- 
phy 7 — brings us right to the heart of the new question raised by our exami- 
nation of resistance. I am referring to the text on negation [denegation]. 

Jean Hyppolite, by taking responsibility for this text, is sparing me an exer- 
cise in which my competence is far from attaining the level of his own. Let me 
thank him for having granted my request and let us give him the floor regard- 
ing Freud's "Verneinung." 8 


1 . 1 am providing here the text of one of the 
meetings of the seminar held at the Saint Anne 
Hospital University Clinic which was devoted, 
during the 1 953-1 954 academic year, to Freud 's 
writings on technique and their relation to cur- 
rent technique. I have added to it a few refer- 
ences, which seemed useful, back to earlier 
classes, but I was not able to remove the diffi- 
culty of access inherent to a piece extracted 
from an ongoing teaching. 

2. This usage, let it be said in passing, cer- 
tainly includes nonnegligible oscillations 
regarding the accentuation of its transitivity, 
depending on the type of alterity to which it is 
applied. One says, "to resist the evidence"* like 
to "resist the authority of the Court,"* but, on 
the other hand, one says, nicht der Versuchung 
widerstehen. Note the range of nuances that can 
far more easily be displayed in the diversity of 
the semanteme in German — widerstehen; wider- 
streben; sich strduhen gegen, andauern, fortbeste- 
hen — whereby widerstehen can intentionally 
correspond more closely to the meaning I am 
going to isolate as being the properly analytic 
meaning of resistance. 

3. See pages 290-307 of the chapter "Zur 
Psychotherapie der Hysterie," written by 
Freud, in Studien iiher hysterie, GW\, published 
in 1895 with Josef Breuer. In English, see Stud- 
ies on Hysteria [SE II]. 

4. One will recognize in this the formula- 
tion by which I introduced what is at stake here 
at the very beginning of my teaching. The sub- 
ject, as I said then, begins analysis by speaking 
of himself without speaking to you, or by 
speaking to you without speaking of himself. 
When he can speak to you about himself, the 
analysis will be finished. 

5. GW\\-\\\, 511, fnl; SE V, 517-18, fn2; 
Science des rives, All. 

6. Indeed, this example opens the book: 
GW\N, 5-12 [SE VI, 2-7], Psychopathologie 
de la vie quotidienne, 1—8. 

7. 1 devoted the next year [of my seminar] 
to a commentary on the writing entitled Beyond 
the Pleasure Principle. 

8. Jean Hyppolite 's discourse can be found 
as an appendix to the present volume, begin- 
ning on page 879. 

3 8i Response to Jean Hyppolite 's Commentary 

on Freud's "Verneinung" 

I hope that the gratitude we all feel for the favor Prof. Hyppolite did for us by 
providing such an illuminating expose will justify in your eyes, no less I hope 
than in his, my insistence in asking him to prepare it. 

We see once again here that, in proposing a text by Freud — that is appar- 
ently of but the most local interest — to a mind that has the fewest preconcep- 
tions about it, even if that mind is certainly not the least practiced, we find in 
the text the inexhaustible richness of significations that it is destined to offer 
up to the discipline of commentary. It is not one of those two dimensional texts, 
which are infinitely flat, as mathematicians say, which have only a fiduciary 
value in a constituted discourse, but rather a text which carries speech insofar 
as speech constitutes a new emergence of truth. 

While it is fitting to apply to this sort of text all the resources of our exe- 
gesis, we do so not simply, as you see in this example, in order to investigate 
it in relation to he who is its author — a mode of historical or literary criticism 
whose value as "resistance" must be immediately obvious to a trained psy- 
choanalyst — but rather in order to make it respond to questions that it raises 
for us, to treat it like true speech in its transferential value, as we should say, 
assuming we know our own terms. 

This, of course, assumes that we interpret it. And is there, in fact, a better 
critical method than the method that applies to the comprehension of a mes- 
sage the very principles of comprehension that the message itself conveys? 
This is the most rational means by which to test its authenticity. 

Response to Jean Hyppolite 's Commentary on Freud 's " Verneinung" 319 

For full speech is defined by the fact that it is identical to what it speaks 
about. And this text by Freud provides us with an illuminating example by 382 

confirming my thesis regarding the transpsychological nature of the psycho- 
analytic field, as Jean Hyppolite just told you quite directly. 

This is why Freud's texts turn out, in the final analysis, to have true train- 
ing value for the psychoanalyst, making him practiced — which he must be, 
as I teach explicitly — in a register without which his experience becomes 

For what is at stake is nothing less than whether the analyst is equal to the 
level of man at which he grabs hold of him, regardless of what he thinks of it, 
at which he is called upon to respond to him, whether he likes it or not, and 
for which he assumes responsibility, despite any reservations he may have about 
doing so. This means that he is not free to let himself off the hook with a hyp- 
ocritical reference to his medical qualifications and an indeterminate refer- 
ence to clinical foundations. 

For the psychoanalytic New Deal* has more than one face — indeed, it 
changes faces depending on its interlocutors, such that it has had so many faces 
for some time now that it has been getting caught in its own alibis, starting to 
believe them itself, and even to erroneously see itself in them. 

Regarding what we have just heard, today I simply want to indicate to you 
the avenues that it opens up for our most concrete research. 

Prof. Hyppolite, in his analysis, has brought us over the high pass, marked 
by the difference in level in the subject of the symbolic creation of negation 
with respect to Bejahung. This creation of the symbol, as he stressed, must be 
conceptualized as a mythical moment rather than as a genetic moment. One 
cannot even relate it to the constitution of the object, since it concerns the rela- 
tion between the subject and being and not between the subject and the world. 

In this short text, as in the whole of his work, Freud thus proves to be very 
far ahead of his time and not at all lacking compared with the most recent aspects 
of philosophical reflection. He does not in any way anticipate the modern devel- 
opment of the philosophy of existence. But this philosophy is no more than 
the parry [parade] that reveals in certain people and covers over in others the 
more or less well understood repercussions of a meditation on being, which 
goes so far as to contest the whole tradition of our thought, believing it to stem 
from a primordial confusion of being among beings [I'etre dans Uetani\. 

Now, we cannot fail to be struck by what constantly shines through in 383 

Freud's work regarding the proximity of these problems, which leads me to 
believe that his repeated references to pre-Socratic doctrines do not simply 
bear witness to a discreet use of notes on his reading (which would, moreover, 
contradict Freud's almost mystifying reluctance to show how immensely cul- 

320 Ecrits 

tivated he was), but rather to a properly metaphysical apprehension of what 
were pressing problems for him. 

What Freud designates here as the affective has nothing to do — need we 
go back over this? — with the use made of this term by backers of the new psy- 
choanalysis; they use it as a psychological qualitas occulta in order to desig- 
nate that "lived experience" whose subtle gold, they claim, is only rendered 
through the decanting of a high alchemy; yet their quest for it evokes little 
more than a sniffing that hardly seems promising when we see them panting 
before its most inane forms. 

In this text by Freud, the affective is conceived of as what preserves its effects 
right down to the discursive structuration on the basis of a primordial sym- 
bolization, this structuration (which is also called "intellectual") having been 
constituted in such a way as to translate in the form of misrecognition what 
the first symbolization owes to death. 

We are thus brought to a sort of intersection of the symbolic with the real 
that one might call immediate, insofar as it occurs without an imaginary inter- 
mediary, but that is mediated — although in a form that goes back on itself [se 
renie] — by what was excluded at the first moment [temps] of symbolization. 

These formulations are accessible to you, despite their aridity, thanks to 
everything they condense related to the use of the categories of the symbolic, 
the imaginary, and the real, which you are kind enough to grant me. 

I want to give you an idea of the fertile fields, the key to which is what I 
earlier called the high pass defined by these categories. 

In order to do so, I will extract two examples as premises from two differ- 
ent fields: the first, from what these formulations can clarify about psycho- 
pathological structures and simultaneously allow nosography to understand; 
the second, from what these categories allow us to understand about psy- 
chotherapeutic clinical work and simultaneously shed light on for the theory 
of technique. 
384 The first concerns the function of hallucination. We cannot, of course, 

overestimate the magnitude of the displacement which occurred in the posi- 
tion of this problem by the so-called phenomenological envisioning of the 
data of hallucination. 

But whatever progress has been made here, the problem of hallucination 
remains just as centered as before on the attributes of consciousness. This is a 
stumbling block for a theory of thought that sought the guarantee of its cer- 
tainty in consciousness. As such — at the origin of the hypothesis of this coun- 
terfeiting of consciousness that one understands as one can using the term 
"epiphenomenon" — it is once again and more than ever as a phenomenon of 
consciousness that hallucination is subjected to phenomenological reduction, 

Response to Jean Hyppolite's Commentary on Freud's "Verneinung" 321 

[phenomenologists] believing that it yields its meaning to us when we tritu- 
rate the component forms of its intentionality. 

There is no more striking example of such a method than the pages devoted 
by Maurice Merleau-Ponty to hallucination in his Phenomenology of Percep- 
tion. But the limits to the autonomy of consciousness that he so admirably 
apprehended there in the phenomenon itself were too subtle to bar the way to 
the crude simplification of the hallucinatory noesis into which psychoanalysts 
regularly fall, incorrectly using Freud 's notions in their attempt to explain hal- 
lucinatory consciousness on the basis of an eruption of the pleasure principle. 1 

It would be all too easy to object to this that the noeme of an hallucina- 
tion — the hallucination's "content," as we would say in the vernacular — in 
fact has only the most contingent of relations with any of the subject's satis- 
factions. Hence the phenomenological preparation of the problem allows us 
to glimpse that it no longer has any value here other than that of laying out 
the terms necessary for a true conversion of the question — namely, whether 
or not the noesis of the phenomenon bears any necessary relationship to its 

It is here that this article, put back on the analyst's reading list, assumes its 
proper place by pointing out how much more structuralist Freud 's thought is 385 

than received ideas would have it. For we distort the meaning of the pleasure 
principle if we neglect the fact that it is never posited all by itself in Freud 's 

The casting into structural form found in this article, as Prof. Hyppolite 
just outlined it for you, brings us immediately beyond the conversion that I 
consider to be necessary, if we know how to understand it. I am going to try 
to accustom you to this conversion by analyzing an example in which I hope 
you will sense the promise of a truly scientific reconstitution of the givens of 
a problem. Together we shall perhaps be the artisans of this reconstitution, 
insofar as we can find the handholds that have heretofore eluded [theoreti- 
cians concerned with] the crucial alternative of experience. 

I need go no further to find such an example than to take up the one that 
fell into our lap last week, by investigating a significant moment in the analy- 
sis of the Wolf Man. 2 

I believe that you still recall the hallucination whose trace the subject finds 
anew when he remembers [a scene from his childhood]. The hallucination 
appeared erratically in his fifth year, but it comes to him now with the illu- 
sion, whose falsity is soon demonstrated, that he has already told Freud about 
it. Our examination of this phenomenon will be rendered easier by what we 
already know about its context. For it is not on the basis of an accumulation 
of facts that light can shine forth, but on the basis of a fact that is well reported 

322 Ecrits 

with all its correlations, in other words, with the correlations that one forgets 
precisely because one does not understand the fact — except when a genius 
intervenes who formulates the enigma precisely (here again) as if he already 
knew its solution(s). 

This context is furnished to us in the obstacles to analysis that this case pre- 
sented, Freud seeming to proceed here from one surprise to the next. For he 
did not, of course, have the omniscience that allows our neopractitioners to 
situate case planning at the crux [principe] of the analysis. Indeed, it is in this 
very case study that he asserts with the greatest force that the crux should be 
quite the opposite — namely, that he would rather give up the entire stability 
386 of his theory than misrecognize the tiniest particularities of a case that might 

call his theory into question. This means that even if the sum total of analytic 
experience allows us to isolate some general forms, an analysis proceeds only 
from the particular to the particular. 

The obstacles of the present case, like Freud's surprises — assuming you 
remember not only what came to light last week but also my commentary on 
this case in the first year of this seminar 3 — lie at the heart of contemporary 
concerns: namely, the "intellectualization" of the analytic process, on the one 
hand, and the maintenance of repression, despite conscious acknowledgment 
[prise de conscience] of the repressed, on the other. 

For Freud, in his inflexible inflection of analytic experience, comments here 
that, although the subject manifested in his behavior that he had access (not 
without audacity) to genital reality, the latter went unheeded in his uncon- 
scious where the "sexual theory" of the anal phase still reigned. 

Freud discerns the reason for this phenomenon in the fact that the feminine 
position, assumed by the subject in the imaginary capture of the primal trauma 
(namely, the one whose historicity gives the case write-up its major raison 
d'etre) , makes it impossible for him to accept genital reality without inevitably 
being threatened with castration. 

But what Freud says about the nature of the phenomenon is far more remark- 
able. It is not a question, he says, of repression (Verdrangung), for repression 
cannot be distinguished from the return of the repressed in which the subject 
cries out from every pore of his being what he cannot talk about. 

Regarding castration, Freud tells us that this subject "did not want to 
know anything about it in the sense of repression" ("er von ihr nichts wissen 
wollte im Sinne der Verdrangung"). 4 And to designate this process he uses 
the term Verwerfung, for which, on the whole, I would propose the term 
"excision" [retranckement]. 5 

Its effect is a symbolic abolition. For, when Freud says, "Er verwarf sie," 
"he excises" castration (adding, "und blieb auf dem Standpunkt des Verkehrs 

Response to Jean Hyppolite 's Commentary on Freud 's " Verneinung" 323 

im After," "and held to his theory of anal intercourse"), he continues: "thereby 387 

one cannot say that any judgment regarding its existence was properly made, 
but it was as if it had never existed." 6 

Several pages earlier, right after having determined the historical situation 
of this process in the subject's biography, Freud concluded by distinguishing 
it expressly from repression in the following terms: "Eine Verdrangung ist 
etwas anderes als eine Verwerfung." 7 This is presented to us in the following 
terms in the French translation: "A repression is something other than a judg- 
ment which rejects and chooses." I will let you judge what kind of evil spell 
we must admit has cursed Freud's texts in French — assuming we refuse to 
believe that the translators made a pact to render them incomprehensible — 
not to mention the added impact of the complete extinguishing of the liveli- 
ness of his style. 

The process in question here known as Verwerfung^ which I do not believe 
has ever been commented on in a sustained manner in the analytic literature, 
is situated very precisely in one of the moments that Prof. Hyppolite has just 
brought out for us in the dialectic of Verneinung: Verwerfung is exactly what 
opposes the primal Bejahung and constitutes as such what is expelled. You will 
see proof of this in a sign whose obviousness will surprise you. For it is here 
that we find ourselves at the point at which I left you last week, a point beyond 
which it will be much easier for us to go after what we have just learned from 
Prof. Hyppolite 's talk. 

I will thus forge on ahead, and the most fervent devotees of the idea of devel- 
opment, if there still are any here, will be unable to object that the phenome- 
non occurred at too late a date [to constitute a primal scene], since Prof. 
Hyppolite has admirably shown you that it is mythically speaking that Freud 
describes it as primal. 

Verwerfung thus cut short any manifestation of the symbolic order — that 
is, it cut short the Bejahung that Freud posits as the primary procedure in which 
the judgment of attribution finds its root, and which is no other than the pri- 388 

mordial condition for something from the real to come to offer itself up to the 
revelation of being, or, to employ Heidegger's language, to be let-be. For it is 
clearly to this distant point that Freud brings us, since it is only afterwards that 
anything whatsoever can be found there as existent [comme etani\. 

Such is the inaugural affirmation, which can no longer recur [etre renou- 
vele'e] except through the veiled forms of unconscious speech, for it is only by 
the negation of the negation that human discourse allows us to return to it. 

But what thus becomes of that which is not let-be in this Bejahung? Freud 
told us right away that what the subject has thus excised (verworfen), as I put 
it, from the opening toward being will not be refound in his history, assum- 

324 Ecrits 

ing we designate by the latter term the locus in which the repressed manages 
to reappear. For I ask you to note how striking the formulation is since there 
is not the slightest ambiguity in it: the subject will not want "to know anything 
about it in the sense of repression" For, in order for him to be able to know 
something about it in this sense, it would have had to come in some way to 
light in the primordial symbolization. But once again, what becomes of it? 
You can see what becomes of it: what did not come to light in the symbolic 
appears in the real. 

For that is how we must understand "Einbeziehung ins Ich," taking into 
the subject, and "Ausstossung aus dem Ich," expelling from the subject. The 
latter constitutes the real insofar as it is the domain of that which subsists out- 
side of symbolization. This is why castration — which is excised by the sub- 
ject here from the very limits of what is possible, but which is also thereby 
withdrawn from the possibilities of speech — appears in the real, erratically. 
In other words, it appears in relations of resistance without transference — to 
extend the metaphor I used earlier, I would say, like a punctuation without a 

For the real does not wait [attend], especially not for the subject, since it 
expects [attend] nothing from speech. But it is there, identical to his existence, 
a noise in which one can hear anything and everything, ready to submerge 
with its roar what the "reality principle" constructs there that goes by the name 
of the "outside world." For if the judgment of existence truly functions as we 
389 have understood it in Freud 's myth, it is clearly at the expense of a world from 

which the cunning [ruse] of reason has twice collected its share [part]. 

There is no other value to be given, in fact, to the reiteration of the divid- 
ing up [partage] of the outside and the inside articulated by Freud's sentence: 
"Es ist, wie man sieht, wieder eine Frage des Aussen und Innen." "It is, we see, 
once more a question of the outside and the inside." When exactly does this 
sentence come? First there was the primal expulsion, that is, the real as out- 
side the subject. Then, within representation (Vorstellung), constituted by the 
(imaginary) reproduction of the original perception, there was the discrimi- 
nation of reality as that aspect of the object of the original perception which is 
not simply posited as existing by the subject but can be refound (wiedergefunden) 
in a place where he can grab hold of it. It is in this respect alone that the oper- 
ation, even if it is set in motion by the pleasure principle, escapes the latter's 
mastery. But in this reality, which the subject must compose according to the 
well-tempered scale of his objects, the real — as that which is excised from the 
primordial symbolization — is already there. We might even say that it talks all 
by itself [cause toutseul]. The subject can see something of it emerge in the form 
of a thing which is far from being an object that satisfies him and which involves 

Response to Jean Hyppolite 's Commentary on Freud's "Verneinung" sz5 

his present intentionality only in the most incongruous way — this is the hal- 
lucination here insofar as it is radically differentiated from the interpretive phe- 
nomenon. As we see here in the testimony Freud transcribes as the subject speaks. 
The subject tells him that: 

when he was five, he was playing in the garden next to his maid, and 
was cutting notches into the bark of one of the walnut trees (whose role 
in his dream we are aware of). Suddenly, he noticed, with a terror which 
was impossible to express, that he had sectioned his pinkie (right or left? 
he doesn't know) and that the finger was hanging on by the skin alone. 
He didn't feel any pain but a great deal of anxiety. He did not have the 
heart to say anything to the maid who was only a few steps away from 
him; he let himself fall onto a bench and remained there, incapable of 
looking at his finger again. In the end, he calmed down, looked care- 
fully at his finger, and — lo and behold! — it was altogether intact. 

Let us leave it to Freud to confirm for us — with his usual scrupulous care, 
employing all the thematic resonances and biographical correlations that he 390 

extracts from the subject by the pathway of association — the whole sym- 
bolic richness of the hallucinated scenario. But let us not ourselves be fasci- 
nated by it. 

The correlations of the phenomenon will teach us more, regarding what 
we are interested in, than the narrative that submits the phenomenon to the 
conditions of the transmissibility of discourse. The fact that its content lends 
itself to this so easily, and that it goes so far as to coincide with themes of myth 
and poetry, certainly raises a question, a question which can be formulated 
immediately, but which perhaps must be posed anew in a second moment, if 
only owing to the fact that we know at the outset that the simple solution is 
not sufficient here. 

For a fact is brought out in the narrative of the episode which is not at all 
necessary for its comprehension, quite the contrary: the fact that the subject 
felt it impossible to speak about at the time. Let us note that there is a rever- 
sal of the difficulty here in relation to the case of the forgetting of a name that 
we analyzed earlier. In that case the subject no longer had the signifier at his 
disposal, whereas here he is arrested by the strangeness of the signified — to 
so great an extent that he cannot communicate the feeling he has, even if only 
by crying out, whereas the person who is most suited to hear his call, his beloved 
Nania, is right nearby. 

Instead, he doesn't balk [moufie], if you'll allow me the term due to its expres- 
sive value. What he says about his attitude suggests that it is not simply that 

326 Ecrits 

he sinks into immobility but that he sinks into a kind of temporal funnel out 
of which he eventually rises without having been able to count how many times 
he has wound around during his descent and his reascent, and without his return 
to the surface of ordinary time having in any way occured in response to an 
effort on his part. 

Strangely enough, we find the feature of terrified mutism in another case, 
which is almost a carbon copy of this one, a case that is related to Freud by an 
occasional correspondent of his. 8 

This feature of a temporal abyss proves to have significant correlations. 

391 We shall find them in the current forms in which the recollection occurs. 
You know that the subject, at the moment of undertaking his narrative, at first 
believed that he had already recounted it, and that this aspect of the phenom- 
enon seemed worth considering separately to Freud, being the subject of one 
of his writings that is on our syllabus this year. 9 

The very way in which Freud comes to explain this illusion of memory — 
namely, by the fact that the subject had recounted several times an episode in 
which his uncle bought him a pocketknife at his request while his sister 
received a book — is of concern to us only in terms of what it tells us about the 
function of screen memories. 

Another aspect of the movement of the recollection seems to me to con- 
verge on an idea that I will propose. It is the correction that the subject adds 
secondarily, namely, that the walnut tree involved in the narrative — and which 
is no less familiar to us than to him when he mentions its presence in the anx- 
iety dream, the latter being in some sense the key piece of material in this case — 
is probably brought in from elsewhere, in particular, from another memory of 
an hallucination where it is from the tree itself that he makes blood seep. 

Doesn't all of this indicate to us, in the recollection's in some sense extra- 
temporal character, something like the seal of origin of what is remembered? 

And don't we find in this character something not identical but that we might 
call complementary to what occurs in the famous sense of deja vu which, since 
it constitutes the cross of psychologists, has not been clarified despite the num- 
ber of explanations it has received, and regarding which it is no accident and 
not simply out of a taste for erudition that Freud recalls them in the article I 
was just speaking about? 

One might say that the feeling of deja vu comes to meet the erratic hallu- 
cination, that it is the imagiary echo which arises as a response to a point of 
reality that belongs to the limit where it has been excised from the symbolic. 

392 This means that the sense that something is unreal is exactly the same phe- 
nomenon as the sense of reality, if we designate by this term the "click" [declic] 
that signals the resurfacing, which is hard to obtain, of a forgotten memory. 

Response to Jean Hyppolite 's Commentary on Freud 's " Verneinung" J27 

What allows the second to be felt as such is the fact that it is produced inside 
the symbolic text that constitutes the register of the recollection, whereas the 
first corresponds to the immemorial forms that appear on the palimpsest of the 
imaginary when the text, leaving off, lays bare the medium of reminiscence. 

To understand it in Freud's theory we need but listen to the latter all the 
way to the end, for if a representation is of value there only in terms of what 
it reproduces from the original perception, this recurrence cannot stop at the 
original perception, except mythically. This observation already led Plato to 
the eternal idea; today it presides over the rebirth of the archetype. As for 
me, I will confine myself to remarking that perception takes on its charac- 
teristic of reality only through symbolic articulations that interweave it with 
a whole world. 

But the subject has a no less convincing sense if he encounters the symbol 
that he originally excised from his Bejahung. For this symbol does not enter 
the imaginary, for all that. It constitutes, as Freud tells us, that which truly 
does not exist; as such, it ek-sists, for nothing exists except against a supposed 
background of absence. Nothing exists except insofar as it does not exist. 

This is what we see in our example. The content of the hallucination, which 
is so massively symbolic, owes its appearance in the real to the fact that it does 
not exist for the subject. Everything indicates, indeed, that the subject remains 
fixated in his unconscious in an imaginary feminine position that evacuates all 
meaning from his hallucinatory mutilation. 

In the symbolic order, the empty spaces are as signifying as the full ones; 
in reading Freud today, it certainly seems that the first step of the whole of 
his dialectical movement is constituted by the gap of an emptiness [la beance 

This is what seems to explain the insistence with which the schizophrenic 
reiterates this step. In vain, however, since for him all of the symbolic is real. 

He is very different in this respect from the paranoiac whose predominant 393 

imaginary structures I laid out in my doctoral thesis, that is, the retroaction in 
a cyclical time that makes the anamnesis of his troubles so difficult, the anam- 
nesis of his elementary phenomena which are merely presignifying and which 
only attain that ever partial universe we call a delusion after a discursive organ- 
ization that is long and painful to establish and constitute. 10 

I will go no further today with these indications, which we will have to take 
up again in a clinical context, because I would like to provide a second exam- 
ple by which to put my thesis today to the test. 

This example concerns another mode of interference between the symbolic 
and the real, not that the subject suffers in this case, but that he acts on. Indeed, 

328 Ecrits 

this is the mode of reaction that we designate in analytic technique as "acting 
out,"* without always clearly delimiting its meaning. As we shall see, our con- 
siderations today can help us revamp the notion. 

The acting out* that we are going to examine, even though it apparently 
was of as little consequence for the subject as was the hallucination we have 
just discussed, may be no less demonstrative. If it will not allow us to go as 
far, it is because the author from whom I am borrowing it does not demon- 
strate Freud's investigative power and divinatory penetration and because we 
quickly run out of the material we would need to learn more from it. 

This example is recounted by Ernst Kris, an author who is nevertheless quite 
important because he is part of the triumvirate that has assumed responsibil- 
ity for giving the New Deal* of ego psychology its in some sense official sta- 
tus, and even passes for its intellectual leader. 

He does not give us a more assured formulation of ego psychology, for all 
that; and the technical precepts that the example he provides in his article, "Ego 
Psychology and Interpretation in Psychoanalytic Therapy," 11 is supposed to 
illustrate lead (in their vacillations, in which we can see the nostalgia of the 
old-school psychoanalyst) to wishy-washy notions that I will examine at some 
394 later date — ever hoping, as I am, that a half-wit will come along who, in his 

naivete, will keenly size up this infatuation with normalizing analysis and land 
Kris the definitive blow without anyone else having to get involved. 

In the meantime, let us consider the case that he presents to us in order to 
shed light on the elegance with which he, one might say, cleared it up, thanks 
to the principles whose masterful application his decisive intervention demon- 
strates — these principles being the appeal to the subject's ego, the approach 
"from the surface," the reference to reality, and all the rest. 

We have here a subject for whom Kris is serving as the second psychoan- 
alyst. The subject is seriously thwarted in his profession, an intellectual pro- 
fession which seems not so far removed from our own. This is couched by 
Kris in the following terms: although he holds a respected academic position 
he cannot rise to a higher rank because he is unable to publish his research 
[page 22]. The obstacle is a compulsion that he feels impels him to take other 
people 's ideas. He is thus obsessed with the idea of plagiarizing and even with 
plagiarism. Although he derived a pragmatic improvement from his first analy- 
sis, at present he is tormented by the constant effort not to take others' ideas, 
especially those of a brilliant scholar* he knows. In any case, the subject has 
a study that he is ready to publish. 

One fine day he arrives at his session with an air of triumph. He has found 
proof: he has just come across a book in the library that contains all the ideas 
in his own book. One might say that he did not know the book since he had 

Response to Jean Hyppolite's Commentary on Freud's "Verneinung" 329 

merely glanced at it some time ago. Nevertheless, he is a plagiarist in spite of 
himself. The (woman) analyst with whom he did his first analysis was cer- 
tainly right when she told him more or less the following, "he who has stolen 
once will steal again," since at puberty as well he pilfered books and sweets. 

It is here that Ernst Kris intervenes with his science and audacity, expect- 
ing us to appreciate their great merits, a wish we are likely to only half-satisfy. 
He asks to see the book from the library. He reads it. He discovers that noth- 
ing in it justifies what the subject thinks is in it. It is the subject alone who has 
attributed to the author everything the subject himself wanted to say. 

At this point, Kris tells us, the question "appeared in a new light. The emi- 
nent colleague, it transpired, had repeatedly taken the patient's ideas, and 
embellished and repeated them without acknowledgment" [page 22]. This was 395 

what the subject was afraid of taking from him, having failed to recognize his 
own property therein. 

An era of new comprehension begins. Were I to say that it was Kris' big 
heart that opened its doors, he probably would not agree. He would tell me, 
with the seriousness proverbially attributed to the Pope, that he followed the 
grand principle of approaching problems from the surface. Why not add that 
he approaches them from the outside and even that there is, unbeknown to 
him, something quixotic in the way he settles a question as delicate as that of 

The reversal of intention that Freud has taught us about again earlier today 
no doubt leads to something, but it does not lead to objectivity. In truth, if we 
can be sure that it is in no wise useless to alert the beautiful soul, who is revolt- 
ing against the disorder of his world, to the part he plays therein, the opposite 
is not at all true: we should not assure someone that he is not in the least bit 
guilty just because he accuses himself of bad intentions. 

It was, nevertheless, a fine opportunity to perceive that if there is at least 
one bias a psychoanalyst should have jettisoned thanks to psychoanalysis, it 
is that of "intellectual property." Perhaps this would have made it easier for 
Kris to take his bearings from the way in which the patient understood that 
notion himself. 

And, since we are crossing the line of a prohibition, which is actually more 
imaginary than real, in order to allow the analyst to make a judgment on the 
basis of documentary evidence, why not perceive that we would be adopting 
an overly abstract perspective were we not to examine the true content of the 
ideas at issue here, for that content cannot be indifferent? 

Furthermore, the impact of the inhibition on his vocation perhaps must not 
be altogether neglected, even if such effects obviously seem more significant 
in the success*-oriented context of American culture. 

330 Ecrits 

Now, although I have noticed some modicum of restraint in the exposition 
of the principles of interpretation implied by a form of psychoanalysis that has 
definitively reverted to ego psychology, we are certainly not spared anything 
in Kris' commentary on the case. 
396 Finding passing comfort in having come across formulations by the hon- 

orable Edward Bibring, and considering himself very fortunate to have done 
so, Kris exposes his method to us as follows: 

[T]here was ... an initial exploratory (sic) period, during which . . . typ- 
ical patterns of behavior, present and past, [were studied]. Noted first 
were his critical and admiring attitudes of other people's ideas; then the 
relation of these to the patient's own ideas and intuitions (page 24). 

Please excuse me for following the text step by step. I am doing this so that we 
will not be left with any doubt as to what the author thinks. 

At this point the comparison between the patient's own productivity and 
that of others had to be traced in great detail . . . Finally, the distortion 
of imputing to others his own ideas could be analyzed and the mecha- 
nism of "give and take" made conscious. 

One of my early and sorely missed teachers, whose every twist and turn in 
thought I did not follow for all that, long ago designated as "summaryism" 
["bilanisme"] what Kris describes to us here. We should not, of course, dis- 
dain the making conscious of an obsessive symptom, but it is something else 
altogether to fabricate such a symptom from scratch. 

Abstractly posited, this analysis, which is descriptive we are told, still does 
not strike me as very different from the approach adopted by the patient's first 
analyst, based on what we are told of it. No mystery is made of the fact that 
the analyst was Melitta Schmideberg, for Kris cites a passage from a com- 
mentary she apparently published of this case: 

A patient who during puberty had occasionally stolen . . . retained later 
a certain inclination to plagiarism. Since to him activity was connected 
with stealing, scientific endeavor with plagiarism, etc. [page 23]. 

I have been unable to check whether this sentence exhausts the part played 
in the analysis by the author mentioned, some of the psychoanalytic literature 
having unfortunately become very difficult to find. 12 

But we understand much better the emphasis of the author whose text we 

Response to Jean Hyppolite's Commentary on Freud's "Verneinung" 331 

do have, when he trumpets his conclusion: "It is now possible to compare the 
two types of analytic approach" [page 23]. 

For insofar as he has concretely indicated what his approach consists of, 397 

we clearly see that the analysis of the subject's behavior patterns* amounts to 
inscribing his behavior in the analyst's patterns. 

Not that nothing else is stirred up in this analysis. Kris sketches for us a 
situation involving three people, including the subject's father and grandfa- 
ther, which is quite attractive in appearance, all the more so in that the father 
seems to have failed, as sometimes happens, to rise to the level of the grand- 
father, a distinguished scientist in his homeland. Kris provides a few astute 
remarks here about the grandfather and the father who was not grand, 
whereas I might have preferred a few indications about the role of death in 
this whole game. I don't doubt but that the big [grand] and little fish caught 
on the fishing trips with his father symbolized the classic "comparison," which 
in our mental world has taken the place held in earlier centuries by other more 
gallant comparisons. But all that does not seem to me to be approached from 
the right "end," so to speak. 

I will provide no other proof of this than the corpus delicti promised in my 
example, in other words, precisely what Kris produces as the trophy of his vic- 
tory. He believes that he has arrived at his goal; he shares this with his patient: 

Only the ideas of others were truly interesting, only ideas one could 
take; hence the taking had to be engineered. At this point of the inter- 
pretation I was waiting for the patient's reaction. The patient was silent 
and the very length of the silence had a special significance. Then, as if 
reporting a sudden insight, he said: "Every noon, when I leave here, 
before luncheon, and before returning to my office, I walk through X 
Street (a street well known for its small but attractive restaurants) and I 
look at the menus in the windows. In one of the restaurants I usually 
find my preferred dish — fresh brains." 

These are the closing words of Kris' clinical vignette. I can only hope that 
my abiding interest in cases in which a mountain is made out of a molehill 398 

will convince you to pay attention for another moment as I examine this case 
more closely. 

We have here in every respect an example of an acting out*, which is no 
doubt small in size, but very well constituted. 

The very pleasure this acting out seems to give its midwife surprises me. 
Does Kris actually believe that the height of his art has managed to give rise 
to a valid way out for this id*? 13 

332 Ecrits 

I have no doubt but that the subject's confession has its full transferential 
value, although the author decided, deliberately as he stresses, to spare us any 
details regarding the link — I am stressing this myself — between "the 
defenses" (whose breakdown he has just described for us) and "the patient's 
resistance in analysis" [page 24]. 

But what can we make of the act itself if not a true emergence of a primor- 
dially "excised" oral relation, which no doubt explains the relative failure of 
his first analysis? 

But the fact that it appears in the form of an act which is not at all under- 
stood by the subject does not seem to me to be of any benefit to the subject, 
even if it demonstrates to us what an analysis of the resistances leads to when 
it consists in attacking the subject's world (that is, his patterns*) in order to 
reshape it on the model of the analyst's world, in the name of the analysis of 
defense. I don't doubt but that the patient feels quite good, on the whole, going 
on a diet of fresh brains in his analysis too. He will thus follow one more pat- 
tern*, the one that a large number of theoreticians ascribe quite literally to the 
process of analysis — namely, the introjection of the analyst's ego. We can only 
hope that, here too, they are referring to the healthy part of his ego. Kris' ideas 
about intellectual productivity thus seem to me to receive the Good House- 
keeping Seal of Approval for America. 

It might seem incidental to ask how he is going to deal with the fresh brains, 
the real brains, the brains that one fries in black butter, it being recommended 
to first peel the pia mater, which requires a great deal of care. It is not a futile 
question, however, for suppose that he had discovered in himself a taste for 
399 young boys instead, demanding no less refined preparations; wouldn't there 

ultimately be the same misunderstanding? And wouldn't this acting out*, as 
we would call it, be just as foreign to the subject? 

This means that by approaching the ego's resistance in the subject's 
defenses, and by asking his world to answer the questions that he himself should 
answer, one may elicit highly incongruous answers whose reality value, in terms 
of the subject's drives, is not the reality value that manages to get itself recog- 
nized in symptoms. This is what allows us to better understand the examina- 
tion made by Prof. Hyppolite of the theses Freud contributes in "Die 


1. As an example of this simplistic perspec- and the all-purpose use he makes there of the 
tive, one can cite the paper given by Raymond frankly new notion, "hallucinated emotion"! 
de Saussure at the 1950 Congress of Psychiatry 2. (xJFXII, 103-21 ["From the History of 

Response to Jean Hyppolite's Commentary on Freud's "Verneinung" 333 

an Infantile Neurosis," chapter 7, "Anal Erotism 
and the Castration Complex," SE XVII, 

3. Namely, in 1951-1952. 

4. GJTXII, 117 [5^ XVII, 84]. 

5. [Added in 1966:] As you know, having 
since weighed this term more carefully, I have 
gotten the term "foreclosure" accepted as the 
translation for it. 

6. GJTXII, 117 [SE XVII, 84, reads "He 
rejected castration, and held to his theory of 
intercourse by the anus. [. . .] This really 
involved no judgement upon the question of its 
existence, but it was the same as if it did not 

7. G JTXII, 1 1 1 [SEXVll, 79-80, reads, "A 
repression is something very different from a 
condemning judgement"]. 

8. See "Uber fausse reconnaissance ('deja 
raconte') wahrend der psychoanalytischen 

Arbeit" in GJFX, 116-23, especially the pas- 
sage quoted on page 122 [5iTXIII, 20 1-7, espe- 
cially 206]. 

9. That is the article just cited. 

10. De la psy chose paranoi'aque dans ses rap- 
ports avec la personnalite (Paris: Le Francois, 

1 1 . The article was published in PQ XX, 1 
(1951): 15-29 [and reprinted in Selected Papers 
of Ernst Kris (New Haven: Yale University 
Press, 1975), 237-51]. 

12. See, if you can find it, Melitta Schmide- 
berg, "Intellektuelle Hemmung und Ess- 
storung," Zeitschrift fiir Psychoanalytische 
Padagogik VIII (1934). [In English, see "Intel- 
lectual Inhibition and Disturbances in Eating," 
IJPXIX (1938): 17-22.] 

13. "Id" being the standard English transla- 
tion of Freud 's Es. 


The Freudian Thing 

or the Meaning of the Return to Freud 
in Psychoanalysis 

An expanded version of a lecture given at the 
Vienna Neuropsychiatric Clinic on November 7, 1955 

To Sylvia 

Situation in Time and Place of this Exercise 

At a time when Vienna, in making itself heard again through the voice of its 
Opera, is reassuming, in a moving variation, its age-old mission at a cross- 
roads of cultures from which she was able to create harmony, I have come 
here — not unfittingly, I think — to evoke the fact that this chosen city will 
remain, this time forever more, associated with a revolution in knowledge of 
Copernican proportions. I am referring to the fact that Vienna is the eternal 
site of Freud's discovery and that, owing to this discovery, the veritable cen- 
ter of human beings is no longer at the place ascribed to it by an entire human- 
ist tradition. 

Perhaps even prophets whose own countries were not entirely deaf to them 
must be eclipsed at some point in time, if only after their death. It is appro- 
priate for a foreigner to exercise restraint in evaluating the forces at work in 
such a phase-effect. 

The return to Freud, for which I am assuming here the role of herald, is 
thus situated elsewhere: where it is amply called for by the symbolic scandal 
which Dr. Alfred Winterstein, who is here with us today, rightly highlighted 
when it occurred during his tenure as president of the Vienna Psychoanalytic 
Society — namely, upon the inauguration of the commemorative plaque 
marking the house in which Freud pursued his heroic work — the scandal being 
not that this monument was not dedicated to Freud by his fellow citizens, but 

The Freudian Thing jj5 

that it was not commissioned by the international association of those who 
live off his patronage. 

This failure is symptomatic, for it indicates that he was disowned, not by 402 

the land in which, by virtue of his tradition, he was merely a temporary guest, 
but by the very field he left in our care and by those to whom custody of that 
field was entrusted — that is, the psychoanalytic movement itself, where 
things have come to such a pass that to call for a return to Freud is seen as a 

Since the time when the first sound of the Freudian message rang out from 
the Viennese bell to echo far and wide, many contingent factors have played 
a part in this story. Its reverberations seemed to be drowned out by the muf- 
fled collapses brought about by the first world conflict. Its propagation 
resumed with the immense human wrenching that fomented the second and 
was its most powerful vehicle. It was on the waves of hate 's tocsin and dis- 
cord 's tumult — the panic-stricken breath of war — that Freud's voice reached 
us, as we witnessed the Diaspora of those who transmitted it, whose persecu- 
tion was no coincidence. The shock waves were to reverberate to the very 
confines of our world, echoing on a continent where it would be untrue to say 
that history loses its meaning, since it is where history finds its limit. It would 
even be a mistake to think that history is absent there, since, already several 
centuries in duration, it weighs all the more heavily there due to the gulf traced 
out by its all-too-limited horizon. Rather it is where history is denied with a 
categorical will that gives enterprises their style, that of a cultural ahistoricism 
characteristic of the United States of North America. 

This ahistoricism defines the assimilation required for one to be recognized 
there, in the society constituted by this culture. It was to its summons that a 
group of emigrants had to respond; in order to gain recognition, they could 
only stress their difference, but their function presupposed history at its very 
core, their discipline being the one that had reconstructed the bridge between 
modern man and ancient myths. The combination of circumstances was too 
strong and the opportunity too attractive for them not to give in to the temp- 
tation to abandon the core in order to base function on difference. Let us be 
clear about the nature of this temptation. It was neither that of ease nor that 
of profit. It is certainly easier to efface the principles of a doctrine than the 
stigmata of one's origins, and more profitable to subordinate one 's function 403 

to demand. But to reduce one 's function to one 's difference in this case is to 
give in to a mirage that is internal to the function itself, a mirage that grounds 
the function in this difference. It is to return to the reactionary principle that 
covers over the duality of he who suffers and he who heals with the opposi- 
tion between he who knows and he who does not. How could they avoid regard- 

336 Ecrits 

ing this opposition as true when it is real and, on that basis, avoid slipping into 
becoming managers of souls in a social context that demands such offices? 
The most corrupting of comforts is intellectual comfort, just as the worst cor- 
ruption is corruption of the best. 

Thus Freud 's comment to Jung (I have it from Jung's own mouth) — when, 
having been invited by Clark University, they arrived in view of New York 
Harbor and of the famous statue illuminating the universe, "They don't real- 
ize we 're bringing them the plague" — was turned against him as punishment 
for the hubris whose antiphrasis and darkness do not extinguish its turbid bril- 
liance. To catch its author in her trap, Nemesis had merely to take him at his 
word. We would be justified in fearing that Nemesis added a first-class ticket 

Indeed, if something of the sort has happened, we have only ourselves to 
blame. For Europe seems rather to have faded from the concerns and style — 
if not the minds — of those who left, along with the repression of their bad 

I will not pity you for having been forgotten since it leaves me freer to pres- 
ent to you the project of a return to Freud, as some of us teaching at the Societe 
Franchise de Psychanalyse conceive of it. We are not seeking to emphasize a 
return of the repressed here, but want to use the antithesis constituted by the 
phase that has passed in the psychoanalytic movement since Freud's death to 
show what psychoanalysis is not, and find with you a way to put back into 
force what has continued to sustain it, even in its very deviation — namely, the 
original meaning Freud preserved in it by his mere presence, which I should 
like to explain here. 

How could this meaning escape us when it is attested to in a body of writ- 
ten work of the most lucid and organic kind? And how could it leave us hes- 
404 itant when the study of this work shows us that its different stages and changes 

in direction are governed by Freud 's inflexibly effective concern to maintain 
its original rigor? 

His texts prove to be comparable to those that, in other times, human ven- 
eration has invested with the highest qualities, in that they withstand the test 
of the discipline of commentary, whose virtue one rediscovers in making use 
of it in the traditional way — not simply to situate what someone says in the 
context of his time, but to gauge whether the answer he gives to the questions 
he raises has or has not been superseded by the answer one finds in his work 
to current questions. 

Will I be telling you anything new if I say that these texts — to which for 
the past four years I have devoted a two-hour seminar every Wednesday from 
November to July, without having taken up more than a quarter of them, 

The Freudian Thing jj7 

although my commentary is based on the whole set of them — have surprised 
me and those who attend my seminars as only genuine discoveries can? These 
discoveries range from concepts that have remained unexploited to clinical 
details left to be unearthed by our exploration; they demonstrate how far the 
field investigated by Freud went beyond the avenues he left us by which to 
gain access to it, and how little his case studies, which sometimes give an impres- 
sion of exhaustiveness, were subordinated to what he intended to demonstrate. 
Who, among the experts in disciplines other than psychoanalysis whom I have 
guided in reading these texts, has not been moved by this research in action — 
whether it is the research he has us follow in the Traumdeutung [The Interpre- 
tation of Dreams], the case study of the Wolf Man, or Beyond the Pleasure 
Principle} What an exercise for the training of minds, and what a message to 
lend one 's voice to! And what better confirmation could there be of the method- 
ical value of this training and the truth effect this message produces than the 
fact that the students to whom you transmit them bring you evidence of a trans- 
formation, occurring sometimes overnight, in their practice, which becomes 
simpler or more effective even before it becomes more transparent to them. I 
cannot provide you with a detailed account of this work in my talk here, for 
which I am indebted to the kindness of Professor Hoff for the opportunity to 
give it in this place of noble memory, to the convergence between my views 
and those of Dr. Arnold for the suggestion to give this talk here, and to my 
excellent and long-standing relations with Mr. Igor Caruso for knowing how 405 

it would be received in Vienna. 

But I cannot forget that I owe part of my audience today to the indulgence 
of Mr. Susini, the director of the French Institute in Vienna. And this is why 
I must ask myself, coming now as I am to the meaning of the return to Freud 
that I am professing here, whether I am not running the risk of disappointing 
this part of my audience because it is less prepared than the specialists may be 
to understand me. 

The Adversary 

I am sure of my answer here — "Absolutely not" — assuming that what I am 
going to say is as it should be. The meaning of a return to Freud is a return to 
Freud's meaning. And the meaning of what Freud said may be conveyed to 
anyone because, while addressed to everyone, it concerns each person. One 
word suffices to make this point: Freud's discovery calls truth into question, 
and there is no one who is not personally concerned by truth. 

It must seem rather odd that I should be flinging this word in your faces — 
a word of almost ill repute, a word banished from polite society. But isn't it 

3j8 Ecrits 

inscribed in the very heart of analytic practice, since this practice is constantly 
rediscovering the power of truth in ourselves and in our very flesh? 

Why, indeed, would the unconscious be more worthy of being recognized 
than the defenses that oppose it in the subject, so successfully that the defenses 
seem no less real than it? I am not reviving here the shoddy Nietzschean notion 
of the lie of life, nor am I marveling at the fact that one believes one believes, 
nor do I accept that to will something one need but want it badly enough. But 
I am asking where the peace that ensues in recognizing an unconscious ten- 
dency comes from if the latter is not truer than what restrained it in the con- 
flict. For some time now this peace has, moreover, been quickly proving 
illusory, for psychoanalysts, not content to recognize as unconscious the 
406 defenses to be attributed to the ego, have increasingly identified the defense 

mechanisms — displacement of the object, turning back against the subject, 
regression of form — with the very dynamic that Freud analyzed in the ten- 
dency, which thus seems to persist in the defenses with no more than a change 
of sign. Haven't people gone too far when they submit that the drive itself may 
be made conscious by the defense so that the subject won't recognize himself 
in it? 

In order to try to explain these mysteries in a coherent discourse, I am, in 
spite of myself, using words that reestablish in that discourse the very duality 
that sustains them. But what I deplore is not that one cannot see the forest of 
the theory for the trees of the technique employed, but rather that it would 
take so little to believe that one is in the Bondy Forest, precisely because of 
the following notion, which is hiding behind each tree — namely, that there 
must be some trees that are truer than others, or, if you prefer, that not all trees 
are bandits. Without which, one might wind up asking where the bandits are 
who are not trees. Does this little, then, which can become everything on occa- 
sion, perhaps deserve an explanation? What is this truth without which there 
is no way of distinguishing the face from the mask, and apart from which there 
seems to be no other monster than the labyrinth itself? In other words, how 
are they to be distinguished, in truth, if they are all equally real? 

Here the big clodhoppers come forward to slip onto the dove 's feet — on 
which, as we know, truth is borne — and to swallow up the bird occasionally 
as well: "Our criterion," they cry, "is simply economic, you ideologist. Not 
all organizations of reality are equally economical." But at the point at which 
truth has already been brought to bear, the bird escapes unscathed when I ask, 
"Economical for whom?" 

Things have gone too far this time. The adversary snickers: "We get the 
picture. Monsieur has a philosophical bent. Plato and Hegel will be showing 
up any minute now. Their stamp suffices. Whatever they endorse should be 

The Freudian Thing S39 

discarded and, anyway, if, as you said, this concerns everyone, it's of no 
interest to specialists like us. It can't even be classified in our documentation." 

You think I'm joking here. But not at all: I subscribe to it. 

If Freud contributed nothing more to the knowledge of man than the ver- 
ity that there is something veritable, there is no Freudian discovery. Freud sim- 407 
ply belongs then to the line of moralists in whom a tradition of humanistic 
analysis is embodied, a milky way in the heavenly vault of European culture 
in which Balthazar Gracian and La Rochefoucauld are among the brightest 
stars, and Nietzsche is a nova as dazzling as it is short-lived. The latest to join 
them — and spurred on, like them, no doubt by a characteristically Christian 
concern for the authenticity of the stirrings of the soul — Freud was able to 
precipitate a whole casuistry into a map of Tendre, in which one couldn't care 
less about an orientation for the offices for which it was intended. Its objec- 
tivity is, in fact, strictly tied to the analytic situation, which, within the four 
walls that limit its field, can do very well without people knowing which way 
is north since they confuse north with the long axis of the couch, assumed to 
point in the direction of the analyst. Psychoanalysis is the science of the mirages 
that arise within this field. A unique experience, a rather abject one at that, but 
one that cannot be too highly recommended to those who wish to get to the 
crux of mankind's forms of madness, for, while revealing itself to be akin to 
a whole range of alienations, it sheds light on them. 

This language is moderate enough — I am not the one who invented it. I 
have even heard a zealot of supposedly classical psychoanalysis define the lat- 
ter as an experience whose privilege is strictly tied to the forms that regulate 
its practice, forms that cannot be altered one iota because, having been 
obtained by means of a miracle of chance, they provide access to a reality that 
transcends the phenomena of history, a reality in which a taste for order and 
a love of beauty, for example, find their permanent ground — namely, the 
objects of the preoedipal relation, shit and all that other crap. 

This position cannot be refuted since its rules are justified by their out- 
comes, and the latter are taken as proof that the rules are well founded. Yet 
our questions proliferate anew: How did this prodigious miracle of chance 
occur? Whence stems this contradiction between the preoedipal mess, to which 
the analytic relationship can be reduced, according to our modern analysts, 
and the fact that Freud wasn't satisfied until he had reduced it to the Oedipal 
position? How can the sort of hothouse auscultation on which this "new-look"* 
of analytic experience borders be the final stage in a development that 
appeared at the outset to open up multiple paths among all the fields of cre- 
ation? Or the same question put the other way round: If the objects discerned 408 
in this elective fermentation were thus discovered through some other path- 

34° Ecrits 

way than that of experimental psychology, is experimental psychology qual- 
ified to rediscover them through its own procedures? 

The replies we will receive from the interested parties leave no room for 
doubt. The motor force of analytic experience, even when explained in their 
terms, cannot simply be this mirage-like truth that can be reduced to the mirage 
of truth. It all began with a particular truth, an unveiling, the effect of which 
is that reality is no longer the same for us as it was before. This is what con- 
tinues to attach the crazy cacophony of theory to the very heart of worldly 
things, and to prevent practice from degenerating to the level of the wretched 
who never manage to leave them behind (it should be understood that I am 
using the term to exclude cynics). 

A truth, if it must be said, is not easy to recognize once it has become 
received. Not that there aren't any established truths, but they are so easily 
confused with the reality that surrounds them that no other artifice was for a 
long time found to distinguish them from it than to mark them with the sign 
of the spirit and, in order to pay them homage, to regard them as having come 
from another world. It is not the whole story to attribute to a sort of blindness 
on man's part the fact that truth is never to him a finer looking girl than when 
the light, held aloft by his arm as in the proverbial emblem, unexpectedly illu- 
minates her nakedness. And one must play the fool [la bete] a bit to feign know- 
ing nothing of what happens next. But stupidity remains characterized by 
bullheaded frankness when one wonders where one could have been looking 
for her before, the emblem scarcely helping to indicate the well, an unseemly 
and even malodorous place, rather than the jewelry box in which every pre- 
cious form must be preserved intact. 

The Thing Speaks of Itself 

But now the truth in Freud's mouth takes the said bull [bete] by the horns: "To 
you I am thus the enigma of she who slips away as soon as she appears, you 
men who try so hard to hide me under the tawdry finery of your proprieties. 
409 Still, I admit your embarrassment is sincere, for even when you take it upon 

yourselves to become my heralds, you acquire no greater worth by wearing 
my colors than your own clothes, which are like you, phantoms that you are. 
Where am I going, having passed into you? And where was I prior to that? 
Will I perhaps tell you someday? But so that you will find me where I am, I 
will teach you by what sign you can recognize me. Men, listen, I am telling 
you the secret. I, truth, speak. 

"Must I point out that you did not yet know this? Of course, some of you 
who proclaimed yourselves my lovers, no doubt because of the principle that 

The Freudian Thing 34 1 

one is never better served than by oneself in this kind of boasting, had 
posited — in an ambiguous manner, and not without revealing the clumsiness 
brought on by the vanity that they were really concerned about — that the errors 
of philosophy, that is, their own, could subsist only on my subsidies. Yet hav- 
ing embraced these daughters of their thought, they eventually found them as 
insipid as they were futile, and began associating anew with opinions consid- 
ered to be vulgar according to the moral standards of the sages of old; the lat- 
ter knew how to put such opinions — whether narrative, litigious, guileful, or 
simply mendacious — in their place, but also to seek them out in the home and 
in the forum, at the forge and at the fair. They then realized that, by not being 
my parasites, these opinions seemed to be serving me far better, and — who 
knows? — even to be acting as my militia, the secret agents of my power. Sev- 
eral cases observed in certain games of sudden transformations of error into 
truth, which seemed to be due only to perseverance, set them on the path of 
this discovery. The discourse of error — its articulation in action — could bear 
witness to the truth against the apparent facts themselves. It was then that one 
of them tried to get the cunning of reason accepted into the rank of objects 
deemed worthy of study. Unfortunately, he was a professor, and you were only 
too happy to listen to his teachings with the dunce caps you were made to wear 
at school and which have since served as ear- trumpets for those of you who are 
a bit deaf. Remain content, then, with your vague sense of history and leave it 
to clever people to found the world market in lies, the trade in all-out war, and 
the new law of self-criticism on the guarantee of my future firm. If reason is 
as cunning as Hegel said it was, it will do its job without your help. 

"But for all that, you haven't rendered what you owe me obsolete or end- 410 

lessly postponable. It falls due after yesterday and before tomorrow. And it 
hardly matters whether you rush ahead to honor or evade it, since it will grab 
you from behind in both cases. Whether you flee me in deceit or think you can 
catch me in error, I will catch up with you in the mistake from which you can- 
not hide. Where the most cunning speech reveals a slight stumbling, it doesn't 
live up to its perfidy — I am now publicly announcing the fact — and it will be 
a bit harder after this to act as if nothing is happening, whether in good com- 
pany or bad. But there is no need to wear yourselves out keeping a closer watch 
on yourselves. Even if the combined jurisdictions of politeness and politics 
declared that whatever claims to be associated with me is inadmissible when 
it presents itself in such an illicit manner, you would not get off so lightly, for 
the most innocent intention is disconcerted once it can no longer conceal the 
fact that one 's bungled actions are the most successful and that one 's failures 
fulfill one's most secret wishes. In any case, doesn't my escape — first from 
the dungeon of the fortress in which you think you are most sure to hold me 

S4 2 Ecrits 

by situating me not in yourselves, but in being itself — suffice to prove your 
defeat? I wander about in what you regard as least true by its very nature: in 
dreams, in the way the most far-fetched witticisms and the most grotesque 
nonsense* of jokes defy meaning, and in chance — not in its law, but rather in 
its contingency. And I never more surely proceed to change the face of the 
world than when I give it the profile of Cleopatra's nose. 

"You can therefore reduce the traffic on the roads that you strove so hard 
to prove radiate from consciousness, and which were the ego's pride and joy, 
crowned by Fichte with the insignias of its transcendence. The long-term trade 
in truth no longer involves thought; strangely enough, it now seems to involve 
things: rebus, it is through you that I communicate, as Freud formulates it at 
the end of the first paragraph of the sixth chapter, devoted to the dream work, 
of his work on dreams and what dreams mean. 

"But you must be careful here: the hard time Freud had becoming a pro- 
411 fessor will perhaps spare him your neglect, if not your deviation," the 

prosopopeia continues. "Listen carefully to what he says, and — as he said it 
of me, the truth that speaks — the best way to grasp it is to take it quite liter- 
ally. Here, no doubt, things are my signs, but, I repeat, signs of my speech. If 
Cleopatra's nose changed the world's course, it was because it entered the 
world's discourse; for in order to change it for the longer or the shorter, it was 
sufficient, but it was also necessary, that it be a speaking nose. 

"But it is your own nose that you must now use, albeit for more natural 
ends. Let a sense of smell surer than all your categories guide you in the race 
to which I challenge you. For if the cunning of reason, however disdainful it 
may have been of you, remained open to your faith, I, truth, will against you 
be the great Trickster, since I slip in not only via falsehood, but through a 
crack too narrow to be found at feigning's weakest point and through the 
dream's inaccessible cloud, through the groundless fascination with medioc- 
rity and the seductive impasse of absurdity. Seek, dogs that you become upon 
hearing me, bloodhounds that Sophocles preferred to put on the scent of the 
hermetic traces of Apollo's thief than on Oedipus' bleeding heels, certain as 
he was of finding the moment of truth with him at the sinister meeting at 
Colonus. Enter the lists at my call and howl at the sound of my voice. Now 
that you are already lost, I belie myself, I defy you, I slip away: you say that I 
am being defensive." 


The return to darkness, which I think must be expected at this moment, is the 
signal for a "murder party"* that begins with an order forbidding everyone to 

The Freudian Thing 343 

leave, since anyone may now be hiding the truth under her dress, or even in 
her womb, as in the amorous fiction, The Indiscreet Jewels. The general ques- 
tion is: Who is speaking? And the question is not an irrelevant one. Unfortu- 
nately, the answers given are a bit hasty. First the libido is accused, which leads 
us in the direction of the jewels; but we must realize that the ego itself — although 
it fetters the libido, which pines for satisfaction — is sometimes the object of the 
libido's undertakings. One senses that the ego is about to collapse any minute, 
when the sound of broken glass informs everyone that it is the large drawing- 
room mirror that has sustained the accident, the golem of narcissism, hastily 412 
invoked to assist the ego, having thereby made its entrance. The ego is then 
generally regarded as the assassin, if not the victim, the upshot being that the 
divine rays of the good President Schreber begin to spread their net over the 
world, and the Sabbath of the instincts becomes truly complicated. 

The comedy, which I shall interrupt here at the beginning of its second act, 
is less mean-spirited than is usually believed, since — attributing to a drama of 
knowledge a buffoonery that belongs only to those who act in this drama with- 
out understanding it — it restores to such people the authenticity from which 
they had fallen away ever further. 

But if a more serious metaphor befits the protagonist, it is one that would 
show us in Freud an Actaeon perpetually set upon by dogs that are thrown off 
the scent right from the outset, dogs that he strives to get back on his tail, with- 
out being able to slow the race in which only his passion for the goddess leads 
him on. It leads him on so far that he cannot stop until he reaches the cave in 
which the chthonian Diana, in the damp shade that confounds the cave with 
the emblematic abode of truth, offers to his thirst, along with the smooth sur- 
face of death, the quasi-mystical limit of the most rational discourse the world 
has ever heard, so that we might recognize there the locus in which the sym- 
bol substitutes for death in order to take possession of the first budding of life. 

As we know, this limit and this locus are still far from being reached by his 
disciples, when they don't simply refuse to follow him there altogether, and 
so the Actaeon who is dismembered here is not Freud, but every analyst in 
proportion to the passion that inflamed him and made him — according to the 
signification Giordano Bruno drew from this myth in his Heroic Fren^es — 
the prey of the dogs of his own thoughts. 

To gauge the extent of this rending we must hear the irrepressible protests 
that arise from both the best and the worst, when one tries to bring them back 
to the beginning of the hunt, with the words that truth gave us as a viaticum — 
"I speak" — adding, "There is no speech without language." Their tumult 
drowns out what follows. 

"Logomachia!" goes the strophe on one side. "What do you make of the 

344 Ecrits 

413 preverbal, gestures and facial expressions, tone, melody, mood, and af-fec-tive 
con- tact?" To which others, no less vehement, give the antistrophe: "Every- 
thing is language: language when my heart beats faster as fear strikes and, if 
my patient faints at the roar of an airplane at its zenith, it is a way of telling me 
the memory she still has of the last bombing." Yes, eagle of thought, and when 
the plane 's shape cuts out your semblance in the night-piercing beam of the 
searchlight, it is heaven's response. 

Yet, in trying out these premises, people did not challenge the use of any 
of the forms of communication people might resort to in their exploits, nei- 
ther signals nor images, content nor form, whether man or woman, even if 
this content were one of sympathy, the virtue of any proper form not being 

They began merely to repeat after Freud the key to his discovery: it [fa] 
speaks, precisely where it was least expected — namely, where it suffers. If there 
ever was a time when, to respond to it, it sufficed to listen to what it was say- 
ing (for the answer is already there in hearing it), let us assume that the great 
ones of the early days, the armchair giants, were struck by the curse that befalls 
titanic acts of daring, or that their chairs ceased to be conductors of the good 
word which they were vested to sit before. Be that as it may, since then, there 
have been more meetings between the psychoanalyst and psychoanalysis in 
the hope that the Athenian would reach his apex with Athena having emerged 
fully armed from Freud's head. Shall I tell you of the jealous fate, ever the 
same, that thwarted these meetings? Behind the mask where each of us was to 
meet his betrothed — alas! thrice alas! and a cry of horror at the thought of it, 
another woman having taken her place — he who was there was not him either. 

Let us thus calmly return and spell out with the truth what it said of itself. 
The truth said, "I speak." In order for us to recognize this "I" on the basis of 
the fact that it speaks, perhaps we should not have jumped on the "I," but should 
have paused at the facets of the speaking. "There is no speech without lan- 
guage" reminds us that language is an order constituted by laws, about which 
we could at least learn what they exclude. For example, that language is dif- 
ferent from natural expression and that it is not a code either; that language is 
not the same as information — take a close look at cybernetics and you'll see 

414 the difference; and that language is so far from being reducible to a super- 
structure that materialism itself was alarmed by this heresy — see Stalin's pro- 
nouncement on the question. 

Should you like to know more about it, read Saussure, and since a bell tower 
can hide even the sun, let me make it clear that I am not referring to the Saus- 
sure of psychoanalytic repute, but to Ferdinand, who may be said to be the 
founder of modern linguistics. 

The Freudian Thing 345 

The Thing's Order 

A psychoanalyst should find it easy to grasp the fundamental distinction 
between signifier and signified, and to begin to familiarize himself with the 
two networks of nonoverlapping relations they organize. 

The first network, that of the signifier, is the synchronic structure of the 
material of language insofar as each element takes on its precise usage therein 
by being different from the others; this is the principle of distribution that alone 
regulates the function of the elements of language [langue] at its different lev- 
els, from the phonemic pair of oppositions to compound expressions, the task 
of the most modern research being to isolate the stable forms of the latter. 

The second network, that of the signified, is the diachronic set of concretely 
pronounced discourses, which historically affects the first network, just as the 
structure of the first governs the pathways of the second. What dominates 
here is the unity of signification, which turns out to never come down to a 
pure indication of reality [reel], but always refers to another signification. In 
other words, signification comes about only on the basis of taking things as a 
whole [d* ensemble]. 

Its mainspring cannot be grasped at the level at which signification usually 
secures its characteristic redundancy, for it always proves to exceed the things 
it leaves indeterminate within it. 

The signifier alone guarantees the theoretical coherence of the whole as a 
whole. Its ability to do so is confirmed by the latest development in science, 
just as, upon reflection, we find it to be implicit in early linguistic experience. 

These are the foundations that distinguish language from signs. Dialectic 415 

derives new strength from them. 

For the remark on which Hegel bases his critique of the beautiful soul — 
according to which it is said to live (in every sense, even the economic sense of 
having something to live off of ) precisely off the disorder it denounces — escapes 
being tautological only by maintaining the "tauto-ontic" of the beautiful soul 
as mediation, unrecognized by itself, of this disorder as primary in being. 

However dialectical it may be, this remark cannot shake up the delusion of 
presumption to which Hegel applied it, remaining caught in the trap offered 
by the mirage of consciousness to the / infatuated with its own feeling, which 
Hegel turns into the law of the heart. 

Of course this "I" in Hegel is defined as a legal being, making it more con- 
crete than the real being from which people formerly thought it could be 
abstracted — as is clear from the fact that it implies both a civil status and an 
account status. 

But it was left to Freud to make this legal being responsible for the disor- 

346 Ecrits 

der manifest in the most tightly closed field of the real being — namely, in the 
organism's pseudo-totality. 

I explain this possibility by the congenital gap presented by man's real being 
in his natural relations, and by the reprising, in a sometimes ideographic, but 
also a phonetic and even grammatical usage, of the imaginary elements that 
appear to be fragmented in this gap. 

But we have no need for this genesis to demonstrate the symptom's signi- 
fying structure. Once deciphered, it is plain to see and shows the omnipres- 
ence for human beings of the symbolic function stamped on the flesh. 

What distinguishes a society grounded in language from an animal society, 
which even the ethnological standpoint allows us to see — namely, the fact 
that the exchange that characterizes such a society has other foundations than 
needs (even if it satisfies them), specifically, what has been called the gift "as 
total social fact" — can then be taken much further, so far as to constitute an 
objection to defining this society as a collection of individuals, since the 
immixing of subjects makes it a group with a very different structure. 

This reintroduces the impact of truth as cause from a totally different angle, 
416 and requires a reappraisal of the process of causality — the first stage of which 

would seem to be to recognize the degree to which the heterogeneity of this 
impact is inherent. 2 It is strange that materialist thought seems to forget that 
it derived its impetus from this recourse to the heterogeneous. More interest 
might then be shown in a feature that is much more striking than the resist- 
ance to Freud mounted by the pedants — namely, the connivance this resist- 
ance encountered in collective consciousness. 

If all causality evinces the subject's involvement, it will come as no surprise 
that every order conflict is attributed to him. 

The terms in which I am posing the problem of psychoanalytic interven- 
tion make it sufficiently clear, I think, that its ethics are not individualistic. 

But its practice in the American sphere has so summarily degenerated into 
a means of obtaining "success"* and into a mode of demanding "happiness"* 
that it must be pointed out that this constitutes a repudiation of psychoanaly- 
sis, a repudiation that occurs among too many of its adherents due to the pure 
and simple fact that they have never wanted to know anything about Freud's 
discovery, and that they will never know anything about it, even in the way 
implied by repression: for what is at work here is the mechanism of system- 
atic misrecognition insofar as it simulates delusion, even in its group forms. 

But had analytic experience been more rigorously linked to the general 
structure of semantics, in which it has its roots, it would have allowed us to 
convince [convaincre] them before having to vanquish [vaincre] them. 

For the subject of whom I was just speaking as the legatee of recognized 

The Freudian Thing S4J 

truth is definitely not the ego perceptible in the more or less immediate data 
of conscious jouissance or the alienation of labor. This de facto distinction is 
the same distinction found from the beginning to the end of Freud 's work: 
from the Freudian unconscious, insofar as it is separated by a profound gulf 
from the preconscious functions, to Freud's last will and testament in lecture 
thirty-one of his Neue Vbrlesungen [New Introductory Lectures], "Wo Es war, 
soil Ich werden." 

A formulation in which signifying structuration clearly prevails. 

Let us analyze it. Contrary to the form that the English translation — 417 

"Where the id was, there the ego shall be"* — cannot avoid, Freud said nei- 
ther das Es, nor das Ich, as was his wont when designating the agencies he had 
used to organize his new topography for the previous ten years; and, consid- 
ering the inflexible rigor of his style, this gives a particular emphasis to their 
use in this sentence. In any case — even without having to confirm, through a 
detailed examination of Freud's opus, that he in fact wrote Das Ich unddas Es 
[The Ego and the Id] in order to maintain the fundamental distinction between 
the true subject of the unconscious and the ego as constituted in its nucleus by 
a series of alienating identifications — it seems here that it is in the locus Wo 
(Where) Es (the subject devoid of any das or other objectifying article) war 
(was [etait] — it is a locus of being that is at stake, and that in this locus), soil 
(it is a duty in the moral sense that is announced here, as is confirmed by the 
single sentence that follows it, bringing the chapter to a close) 3 Ich (I, there 
must I — just as in French one announced "ce suis-je," "it is I," before saying 
"c'est moi," "it's me") werden (become [devenir] — not occur [survenir], or even 
happen [advenir], but be born [venir aujour] of this very locus insofar as it is a 
locus of being). 

Even though it runs counter to the principles of economy of expression that 
must dominate a translation, I would thus agree to force the forms of the sig- 
nifier a little in French in order to bring them into line with the weight of a 
still refractory signification, which the German tolerates better here; to do so 
I would play on the homophony between the German Es and the first letter 
of the word "subject." By the same token, I might feel more indulgent, at least 
momentarily, toward the first French translation that was provided of the word 
Es — namely, le soi (the self). The ca [the it or the id], which was eventually 
preferred, not groundlessly, does not seem to me to be much better, since it is 
rather to the German das, in the question, Was ist das?, that it corresponds in 
das ist (c'est [it is]). The elided c 'that appears if we stick to the accepted equiv- 
alence thus suggests to me the production of a verb, s'etre, which would express 
the mode of absolute subjectivity, insofar as Freud truly discovered it in its 
radical eccentricity: "Where it was" ["La ou c'etait"], one might say, "Where 

34$ Ecrits 

(it) was itself" [Id oiis 9 etaii\, as I would like it to be heard, "it is my duty that 

418 I come into being." 4 

You should realize that the point is not to analyze if and how the I [leje] 
and the ego [le moi] are distinct and overlap in each particular subject on the 
basis of a grammatical conception of their functions. 

What a linguistic conception, which must shape the analytic worker in his 
basic initiation, will teach him is to expect the symptom to prove its signify- 
ing function, that is, that by which it differs from the natural index commonly 
designated by the term "symptom" in medicine. And in order to satisfy this 
methodological requirement, he will oblige himself to recognize its conven- 
tional use in the significations brought out by analytic dialogue (a dialogue 
whose structure I shall try to articulate). But he will maintain that these very 
significations can be grasped with certainty only in their context, that is, in the 
sequence constituted for each one of them by the signification that refers back 
to it and the signification to which it refers in the analytic discourse. 

These basic principles can be easily applied in analytic technique and, in 
elucidating it, they dissipate many of the ambiguities which, being maintained 
even in the major concepts of transference and resistance, make the use that 
is made of them in practice exceedingly costly. 

Resistance to the Resisters 

To consider only resistance, whose use is increasingly confused with that of 
defense — and all the latter thus implies by way of maneuvers designed to elim- 
inate it, maneuvers whose coercive nature we can no longer ignore — it is worth 
recalling that the first resistance analysis faces is that of discourse itself, inso- 
far as it is first of all a discourse of opinion, and that all psychological objec- 
tification proves to be intimately tied to this discourse. This is, in effect, what 

419 motivated the remarkable simultaneity with which the psychoanalytic prac- 
tice of the burgraves of analysis came to a standstill in the 1920s: for by then 
they knew both too much and not enough about it to get their patients, who 
scarcely knew less about it, to recognize the truth. 

But the principle adopted at that time of granting primacy to the analysis 
of resistance hardly led to a favorable development. For the reason that giv- 
ing top priority to an operation doesn't suffice to make it reach its objective 
when one is unclear as to what that objective is. 

Now the analysis of resistance was designed precisely to reinforce the sub- 
ject 's objectifying position, to so great an extent, indeed, that this directive 
now permeates the principles that are supposed to be applied in the conduct 
of a standard treatment. 

The Freudian Thing 349 

Far from having to maintain the subject in a state of self-observation, there- 
fore, one must know that by inviting him to adopt such a position one enters 
a circle of misunderstanding that nothing in the treatment, or even in the ana- 
lytic literature, will be able to shatter. Any intervention that moves in this direc- 
tion can thus only be justified by a dialectical aim — namely, to demonstrate 
that it amounts to an impasse. 

But I will go further and say that you cannot both carry out this objectifi- 
cation of the subject yourself and speak to him as you should. And for a rea- 
son, which is not simply that you can't, as the English proverb has it, have 
your cake and eat it too — that is, adopt two different approaches to the same 
objects whose consequences are mutually exclusive. But for the deeper rea- 
son that is expressed in the saying "you can't serve two masters," that is, con- 
form your being to two actions that lead in opposite directions. 

For objectification in psychological matters is subject, at its very core, to a 
law of misrecognition that governs the subject not only as observed, but also 
as observer. In other words, it is not about him that you must speak to him, 
for he can do this well enough himself, and in doing so, it is not even to you 
that he speaks. While it is to him that you must speak, it is literally about some- 
thing else — that is, about some-thing other than what is at stake when he speaks 
of himself — which is the thing that speaks to you. Regardless of what he says, 
this thing will remain forever inaccessible to him if, being speech addressed 
to you, it cannot elicit its response in you, and if, having heard its message in 420 

this inverted form, you cannot, in re-turning it to him, give him the twofold 
satisfaction of having recognized it and of making him recognize its truth. 

Can't we then know the truth that we know in this way? Adcequatio rei et 
intellectus — thus has the concept of truth been defined since there were 
thinkers who lead us into the pathways of their thought. Intellects like ours 
will certainly measure up to the thing that speaks to us, nay, that speaks in us; 
and even when it hides behind a discourse that says nothing merely to make 
us speak, it would be shocking indeed if the thing did not find someone to 
speak to. 

I hope you will be so lucky; we must speak about it now, and those who put 
the thing into practice have the floor. 


But don't expect too much here, for ever since the psychoanalytic thing 
became an accepted thing and its servants started having their hands mani- 
cured, the housecleaning they have been performing makes do with sacrifices 
to good taste, which, as far as ideas — which psychoanalysts have never had 

jSo Ecrits 

in abundance — are concerned, is certainly convenient: ideas on sale for every- 
one will make up the balance of what each person is lacking in. We are suffi- 
ciently abreast of things to know that chosisme is hardly in good taste — which 
is our way of sidestepping the question. 

"Why go off in search of something other than the ego you distinguish, 
when you forbid us to see it?" it may be objected. "So we objectify it. What's 
wrong with that?" Here the delicate shoes move stealthily forward to deliver 
the following kick in the face: "Do you think, then, that the ego can be taken 
as a thing? We'd never entertain any such notion." 

From thirty-five years of cohabitation with the ego under the roof of the 
second Freudian topography — including ten years of a rather stormy rela- 
tionship, finally legitimized by the ministry of Miss Anna Freud in a marriage 
whose social credit has done nothing but grow ever since, so much so that peo- 
421 pie assure me it will soon request the Church's blessing — in short, from the 

most sustained work of psychoanalysts, you will draw nothing more than this 

It is true that it is chock-full of old novelties and new antiques, the sheer 
mass of which is at least entertaining. The ego is a function, the ego is a syn- 
thesis, a synthesis of functions, a function of synthesis. It is autonomous! That's 
a good one! It's the latest fetish introduced into the holy of holies of a prac- 
tice that is legitimated by the superiority of the superiors. It does the job as 
well as any other, everyone realizing that it is always the most outmoded, dirty, 
and repulsive object that best fulfills this function — this function being 
entirely real. That this object should gain for its inventor the veneration it does 
where it is in operation is just barely tolerable, but the most amazing thing is 
that in enlightened circles it has earned him the prestige of having returned 
psychoanalysis to the fold of the laws of general psychology. It is as if His 
Excellency the Aga Khan, not content with receiving his weight in gold — 
which in no way diminishes the esteem in which he is held in cosmopolitan 
society — were to be awarded the Nobel Prize for, in exchange, distributing to 
his followers the precise rules for pari-mutuel. 

But the latest find is the best: the ego, like everything else we have been 
handling of late in the human sciences, is an op-er-a-tion-al notion. 

At this point I appeal, before those in the audience, to this naive chosisme 
which keeps them sitting so properly in their seats, listening to me despite the 
barrage of calls to serve, so that they might, with me, agree to put a stop to 
this op [stopper c't o-pe\ 

In what respect does this op rationally distinguish what one makes of the 
notion of the ego in analysis from the common usage of any other thing, of 
this lectern, to take the first thing at hand? It distinguishes them so little that 

The Freudian Thing j5z 

I am confident I can show that the discourses about them — and that is what 
is at stake — coincide point for point. 

For this lectern, no less than the ego, is dependent on the signifier, namely 
on the word, which — generalizing its function compared to the pulpit of quar- 
relsome memory and to the Tronchin table of noble pedigree — is responsible 
for the fact that it is not merely a tree that has been felled, cut down to size, 
and glued back together by a cabinetmaker, for reasons of commerce tied to 422 

need-creating fashions that maintain its exchange value, assuming it is not led 
too quickly to satisfy the least superfluous of those needs by the final use to 
which wear and tear will eventually reduce it: namely, fuel for the fire. 

Moreover, the significations to which the lectern refers are in no way less 
dignified than those of the ego, and the proof is that they occasionally envelop 
the ego itself, if it is by the functions Heinz Hartmann attributes to the ego 
that one of our semblables may become our lectern: namely, maintain a posi- 
tion suitable enough for him to consent to it. An operational function, no doubt, 
that will allow the said semblable to display within himself all the possible val- 
ues of this lectern as a thing: from the hefty rent charged for its use that kept 
and still keeps the standing of the little hunchback of the rue Quincampoix 
above both the vicissitudes and the very memory of the first great speculative 
crash of modern times, through all the purposes of everyday convenience, of 
furnishing a room, of transfer for cash or assignment of interest, to its use — 
and why not? it has happened before — as firewood. 

But that isn't all, for I am willing to lend my voice to the true lectern so that 
it might deliver a lecture on its existence, which, even though it is instrumen- 
tal, is individual; on its history, which, however radically alienated it may seem 
to us, has left all the written traces a historian might require: documents, texts, 
and bills from suppliers; and on its very destiny, which, though inert, is dra- 
matic, since a lectern is perishable, is engendered by labor, and has a fate sub- 
ject to chance, obstacles, misadventures, prestige, and even fatalities whose 
index it becomes; and it is destined to an end of which it need know nothing 
for it to be the lectern's own, since we all know what it is. 

But it would be nothing more than sheer banality if, after this prosopopeia, 
one of you dreams that he is this lectern, whether or not it is endowed with 
the gift of speech. And since the interpretation of dreams has become a well 
known, if not a widespread, practice, there would be no reason to be surprised 
if — by deciphering the use as a signifier that this lectern has taken on in the 
rebus in which the dreamer immures his desire, and by analyzing the more or 
less equivocal reference implied by this use to the significations the lectern's 
consciousness has awakened in him, with or without its lecture — we reached 423 

what might be called the lectern's "preconscious." 

352 Ecrits 

At this point I hear a protest, which I am not sure how to name, even though 
it is totally predictable: for, in effect, it concerns that which has no name in 
any language [langue], and which, generally manifesting itself in the ambigu- 
ous mollifying motion of "the total personality," comprises everything that 
leads us to be publicly ridiculed in psychiatry for our worthless phenomenol- 
ogy and in society for our stationary "progressivism." The protest is that of 
the beautiful soul, no doubt, but in forms suited to the wishy-washy being, 
wry manner, and tenebrous approach of the modern intellectual, whether on 
the right or left. Indeed, it is in this quarter that the fictional protest of those 
that disorder causes to proliferate finds its noble alliances. Let us listen rather 
to the tone of this protest. 

The tone is measured but serious: neither the preconscious nor conscious- 
ness, we are told, belongs to the lectern, but to we who perceive the desk and 
give it its meaning — all the more easily, moreover, since we ourselves have 
made the thing. But even if a more natural being were at stake, we should never 
thoughtlessly debase in consciousness the high form which, however feeble 
we may be in the universe, assures us an imprescriptible dignity in it — look 
up "reed" in the dictionary of spiritualist thought. 

I must admit that Freud incites me to be irreverent here by the way in 
which, in a passing remark somewhere, as if without touching on it, he speaks 
about the modes of spontaneous provocation that are usual when universal 
consciousness goes into action. And this relieves me of any constraint about 
pursuing my paradox. 

Is the difference between the lectern and us, as far as consciousness is con- 
cerned, so very great then if, in being brought into play between you and me, 
the lectern can so easily acquire a semblance of consciousness that my sen- 
tences could allow us to mistake the one for the other? Being placed with one 
of us between two parallel mirrors, it will be seen to reflect indefinitely, which 
means that it will be far more like the person who is looking than we think, 
since in seeing his image repeated in the same way, he too truly sees himself 
424 through another's eyes when he looks at himself, since without the other, his 

image, he would not see himself seeing himself. 

In other words, the ego's privileged status compared to things must be 
sought elsewhere than in this false recurrence to infinity of the reflection which 
constitutes the mirage of consciousness, and which, despite its utter useless- 
ness, still titillates those who work with thought enough for them to see in it 
some supposed progress in interiority, whereas it is a topological phenome- 
non whose distribution in nature is as sporadic as the dispositions of pure exte- 
riority that condition it, even if it is true that man has helped spread them with 
such immoderate frequency. 

The Freudian Thing j5j 

How, moreover, can we separate the term "preconscious" from the affec- 
tations of this lectern, or from those which are potentially or actually found 
in any other thing and which, by adjusting themselves so exactly to my affec- 
tions, will become conscious along with them? 

I am willing to accept that the ego, and not the lectern, is the seat of per- 
ceptions, but it thus reflects the essence of the objects it perceives and not its 
own essence, insofar as consciousness is supposedly its privilege, since these 
perceptions are, for the most part, unconscious. 

It is no accident, moreover, that I have detected the origin of the protest 
that I must address here in the bastardized forms of phenomenology that cloud 
the technical analyses of human action, especially those required in medicine. 
If their cheap material, to borrow a term Jaspers uses in his assessment of psy- 
choanalysis, really is what gives his work its style, and its weight to him as the 
epitome of the cast-iron spiritual advisor and tin-plate guru, they are not use- 
less — indeed, their use is always the same, namely, to create a diversion. 

They are used here, for example, in order to avoid discussing the impor- 
tant point that the lectern does not talk, which the upholders of the false protest 
want to know nothing about, because my lectern, hearing me grant them the 
point, would immediately begin to speak. 

The other 's Discourse 425 

"In what way, then, is the ego you treat in analysis better than the lectern that 
I am?" it would ask them. 

"For if its health is defined by its adaptation to a reality that is quite frankly 
regarded as being measured against the ego, and if you need the alliance of 
'the healthy part of the ego' in order to eliminate discordances with reality (in 
the other part of the ego, no doubt) — which only appear to be discordances 
due to your principle of regarding the analytic situation as simple and innocu- 
ous, and concerning which you won't stop until you have made the subject see 
them as you see them — isn't it clear that there is no way to discern which is 
the healthy part of the subject's ego except by its agreement with your point 
of view? And, since the latter is assumed to be healthy, it becomes the meas- 
ure of all things. Isn't it similarly clear that there is no other criterion of cure 
than the complete adoption by the subject of your measure? This is confirmed 
by the common admission by certain serious authors that the end of analysis 
is achieved when the subject identifies with the analyst's ego. 

"Certainly, the fact that such a view can spread and be accepted so calmly 
leads one to think that, contrary to the commonly held view that it is easy to 
impress the naive, it is much easier for the naive to impress others. And the 

3S4 Ecrits 

hypocrisy revealed in the declaration — whose repentant tone appears with such 
curious regularity in this discourse — that we should speak to the subject in 
'his own language,' gives one still further pause for thought regarding the depth 
of this naivete. We still have to overcome the nausea we feel at the idea it sug- 
gests of employing baby talk, without which well informed parents would 
believe themselves incapable of inculcating their lofty reasons in the poor lit- 
tle guys that have to be made to keep quiet! These are simple attentions peo- 
ple consider necessary because, according to the notion projected by analytic 
imbecility, neurotics supposedly have weak egos. 

"But we are not here to dream between nausea and vertigo. The fact 
remains that, although I may be a mere lectern in speaking to you, I am the 
ideal patient; for not so much trouble has to be taken with me — the results are 
426 obtained immediately, I am cured in advance. Since the point is simply to replace 

my discourse with yours, I am a perfect ego, since I have never had any other 
discourse, and I leave it to you to inform me of the things to which my adjust- 
ment controls do not allow you to adapt me directly — namely, of everything 
other than your eyesight, your height, and the dimensions of your papers." 

Not a bad speech for a lectern, I'd say. I must be kidding, of course. In 
what it said under my command, it did not have its say. For the reason that it 
itself was a word; it was "me" [moi] as grammatical subject. Well, that's one 
rank achieved, one worth being picked up by the opportunistic soldier in the 
ditch of an entirely eristic claim, but which also provides us with an illustra- 
tion of the Freudian motto, which, expressed as "La ou etait 9a, leje doit etre," 
would confirm, to our benefit, the feeble character of a translation that sub- 
stantifies the Ich, by giving a "t" to doit translating soil, and fixes the price 
of the Es according to the rate of the 9. The fact remains that the lectern is 
not an ego, however eloquent it was, but a means that I have employed in my 

But, after all, if we envision its virtue in analysis, the ego, too, is a means, 
and they can be compared. 

As the lectern so pertinently mentioned, it has the advantage over the ego 
of not being a means of resistance, and that's precisely why I chose it to prop 
up my discourse and proportionately mitigate whatever resistance a greater 
interference of my ego in Freud's words might have given rise to in you — sat- 
isfied as I would already be if the resistance you must be left with, despite this 
effacement, led you to find what I am saying "interesting." It's no accident 
that this expression, in its euphemistic use, designates what interests us only 
moderately, and manages to come full circle in its antithesis, by which specu- 
lations of universal interest are called "disinterested." 

But were what I am saying to come to interest you personally — as they say, 

The Freudian Thing j55 

filling out an antonomasia with a pleonasm — the lectern would soon be in 
pieces for us to use as a weapon. 

Well, all of that applies to the ego, except that its uses seem to be reversed 
in their relation to its states. The ego is a means of the speech addressed to you 
from the subject's unconscious, a weapon for resisting its recognition; it is frag- 
mented when it conveys speech and whole when it serves not to hear it. 427 

Indeed, the subject finds the signifying material of his symptoms in the dis- 
integration of the imaginary unity that the ego constitutes. And it is from the 
sort of interest the ego awakens in him that come the significations that turn 
his discourse away from it. 

Imaginary Passion 

This interest in the ego is a passion whose nature was already glimpsed by the 
traditional moralists, who called it amour-propre, but whose dynamics in rela- 
tion to one 's own body image only psychoanalytic investigation could ana- 
lyze. This passion brings to every relation with this image, constantly 
represented by my semblable, a signification which interests me so greatly — 
that is, which makes me so dependent on this image — that it links all the objects 
of my desires to the other's desire, more closely than to the desire they arouse 
in me. 

I am talking about objects as we expect them to appear in a space structured 
by vision — that is, objects characteristic of the human world. As to the knowl- 
edge on which desire for these objects depends, men are far from confirming 
the expression that says they see no further than the end of their nose; on the 
contrary, their misfortune is such that their world begins at the end of their 
nose, and they can apprehend their desire only by means of the same thing 
that allows them to see their nose itself: a mirror. But no sooner has this nose 
been discerned than they fall in love with it, and this is the first signification 
by which narcissism envelops the forms of desire. It is not the only significa- 
tion, and the growing importance of aggressiveness in the firmament of ana- 
lytic concerns would remain obscure if we confined our attention to this one 

This is a point I believe I myself have helped elucidate by conceptualizing 
the so-called dynamics of the "mirror stage" as the consequence of man's 
generic prematurity at birth, leading at the age indicated to the jubilant iden- 428 

tification of the individual who is still an infant with the total form in which 
this reflection of the nose is integrated — namely, with the image of his body. 
This operation — which is carried out in an approximate manner that might 
be off by a nose [faite a vue de ne^ an apt expression here, in other words, 

356 Ecrits 

falling more or less into the same category as the "aha!" that enlightens us 
about the chimpanzee 's intelligence, amazed as we always are to detect the 
miracle of intelligence on our peers' faces — does not fail to bring deplorable 
consequences in its wake. 

As a witty poet so rightly remarks, the mirror would do well to reflect a lit- 
tle more before sending us back our image. For at this point the subject has 
not yet seen anything. But let the same capture be reproduced under the nose 
of one of his semblables — the nose of a notary, for example — and Lord knows 
where the subject will be led by the nose, given the places such legal profes- 
sionals are in the habit of sticking theirs. And whatever else we have — hands, 
feet, heart, mouth, even the eyes — that is so reluctant to follow is threatened 
by a breaking up of the team, whose announcement through anxiety could 
only lead to severe measures. Regroup! — an appeal to the power of this image 
which made the honeymoon with the mirror so jubilant, to the sacred union 
of right and left that is affirmed in it, as inverted as it may appear to be should 
the subject prove to be a bit more observant. 

But what finer model of this union is there than the very image of the other, 
that is, of the notary in his function? It is thus that the functions of mastery, 
improperly called the ego's synthetic functions, institute on the basis of a libid- 
inal alienation the subsequent development — namely, what I formerly termed 
the "paranoiac principle of human knowledge," according to which man's 
objects are subjected to a law of imaginary reduplication, evoking ratification 
by an indefinite series of notaries, which owes nothing to their professional 

But the signification that strikes me as decisive in the constitutive alien- 
ation of the ego's Urbild appears in the relation of exclusion that henceforth 
structures the dyadic ego-to-ego relationship in the subject. For should the 
imaginary coaptation of the one to the other bring about a complementary 
distribution of roles between, for example, the notary and the notarized party, 
an effect of the ego's precipitated identification with the other in the subject 
is that this distribution never constitutes even a kinetic harmony, but is insti- 
tuted on the basis of a permanent "it's you or me" form of war in which the 
429 existence of one or the other of the two notaries in each of the subjects is at 

stake. This situation is symbolized in the "So are you" of the transitivist quar- 
rel, the original form of aggressive communication. 

We can see to what the ego's language is reduced: intuitive illumination, 
recollective command, and the retorting aggressiveness of verbal echo. Let us 
add to this what the ego receives from the automatic scraps of everyday dis- 
course: rote-learning and delusional refrain, modes of communication per- 
fectly reproduced by objects scarcely more complicated than this lectern, a 

The Freudian Thing s5y 

feed-back* construction for the former, a gramophone record, preferably 
scratched in the right place, for the latter. 

It is, nevertheless, in this register that the systematic analysis of defense is 
proffered. It is corroborated by semblances of regression. The object-relation 
provides appearances of it, and this forcing has no other outcome than one of 
the three allowed by the technique currently in force. Either the impulsive 
leap into reality [reel] through the hoop of fantasy: acting out* in a direction 
that is ordinarily the opposite of suggestion. Or transitory hypomania due to 
ejection of the object itself, which is correctly described in the megalomania- 
cal intoxication which my friend Michael Balint, in an account so veracious as 
to make him a still better friend, recognizes as the index of the termination of 
an analysis according to current norms. Or in the sort of somatization con- 
stituted by mild hypochondria, discretely theorized under the heading of the 
doctor/patient relationship. 

The dimension of a "two body psychology,"* suggested by Rickman, is the 
fantasy in which a "two ego analysis"* hides, which is as untenable as it is coher- 
ent in its results. 

Analytic Action 

This is why I teach that there are not only two subjects present in the analytic 
situation, but two subjects each of whom is provided with two objects, the ego 
and the other, the latter beginning with a lowercase o. Now, due to the singu- 
larities of a dialectical mathematics with which we must familiarize ourselves, 
their union in the pair of subjects S and A includes only four terms in all, because 
the relation of exclusion that obtains between a and a reduces the two cou- 430 

pies thus indicated to a single couple in the juxtaposition of the subjects. 

In this game for four players, the analyst will act on the significant resist- 
ances that weigh down, impede, and divert speech, while himself introducing 
into the quartet the primordial sign of the exclusion that connotes the 
either/or of presence or absence which formally brings out death as included 
in the narcissistic Bildung. This sign is lacking, let it be noted in passing, in 
the algorithmic apparatus of the modern logic that is called symbolic, 
demonstrating the dialectical inadequacy that renders it still unsuitable for 
formalizing the human sciences. 

This means that the analyst concretely intervenes in the dialectic of analy- 
sis by playing dead — by " cadaver izing" his position, as the Chinese say — 
either by his silence where he is the Other with a capital O, or by canceling 
out his own resistance where he is the other with a lowercase o. In both cases, 
and via symbolic and imaginary effects, respectively, he makes death present. 

S58 Ecrits 

Still, he must recognize and therefore distinguish his action in each of these 
two registers to know why he is intervening, at what moment the opportunity 
is presenting itself, and how to act on it. 

The primordial condition for this is that the analyst should be thoroughly 
convinced of the radical difference between the Other to whom his speech 
should be addressed, and the second other who is the one he sees before him, 
about whom and by means of whom the first speaks to him in the discourse it 
pursues before him. For, in this way, the analyst will be able to be the one to 
whom this discourse is addressed. 

The fable of my lectern and the usual practice of the discourse of convic- 
tion will show him clearly enough, if he thinks about it, that no word [dis- 
course — whatever inertia it may be based on or whatever passion it may appeal 
to — is ever addressed to anyone except the wise to whom it is sufficient. Even 
what is known as an adhominem argument is only regarded by the person who 
uses it as a seduction designed to get the other, in his authenticity, to accept 
what the person says [parole^ this speech constitutes a pact, whether it is made 
explicit or not, between the two subjects, but it is situated in either case beyond 
the reasons furnished in the argument. 

In general, each person knows that others will remain, like himself, inac- 
cessible to the constraints of reason, failing an a priori acceptance of a rule of 
43 1 debate that cannot function without an explicit or implicit agreement as to what 

is called its ground [fonds], which is almost always tantamount to a prior agree- 
ment regarding the stakes. What is called logic or law is never anything more 
than a body of rules that were laboriously worked out at a moment of history, 
duly dated and situated by a stamp of origin — whether agora or forum, 
church, or even political party. Thus I won't expect anything from these rules 
without the Other's good faith and, as a last resort, will only make use of them, 
if I see fit or am forced to, in order to beguile bad faith. 

The Locus of Speech 

The Other is, therefore, the locus in which is constituted the I who speaks 
along with he who hears, what is said by the one being already the reply, the 
other deciding, in hearing [entendre] it, whether the one has spoken or not. 

But, in return, this locus extends as far into the subject as the laws of speech 
reign there, that is, well beyond the discourse that takes its watchwords from 
the ego, since Freud discovered its unconscious field and the laws that struc- 
ture it. 

It is not because of some mystery concerning the indestructibility of cer- 
tain childhood desires that the laws of the unconscious determine analyzable 

The Freudian Thing s5g 

symptoms. The subject's imaginary shaping by his desires — which are more 
or less fixated or regressed in relation to the object — is too inadequate and 
partial to provide the key. 

The necessary and sufficient reason for the repetitive insistence of these 
desires in the transference and their permanent remembrance in a signifier 
that repression has appropriated — that is, in which the repressed returns — is 
found if one accepts the idea that in these determinations the desire for recog- 
nition dominates the desire that is to be recognized, preserving it as such until 
it is recognized. 

Indeed, the laws of remembering and symbolic recognition are different in 
their essence and manifestation from the laws of imaginary reminiscence — 
that is, from the echo of feeling or instinctual imprinting (Pragung) — even if 
the elements organized by the former as signifiers are borrowed from the mate- 
rial to which the latter give signification. 

To grasp the nature of symbolic memory, it suffices to have studied once, 432 

as I had people do in my seminar, the simplest symbolic sequence, that of a lin- 
ear series of signs connoting the presence/absence alternative, each sign being 
chosen at random by whatever pure or impure means adopted. If this sequence 
is then elaborated in the simplest way, isolating three-term sequences to gen- 
erate a new series, syntactical laws arise that impose on each term of this new 
series certain exclusions of possibility until the compensations demanded by 
its antecedents have been satisfied. 

Freud's discovery went right to the heart of this determination by the 
symbolic law, for in the unconscious — which, he insisted, was quite different 
from everything that had previously been designated by that name — he rec- 
ognized the instance of the laws on which marriage and kinship are based, 
establishing the Oedipus complex as its central motivation already in the 
Traumdeutung. This is what now allows me to tell you why the motives of the 
unconscious are limited to sexual desire, a point on which Freud was quite 
clear from the outset and from which he never deviated. Indeed, it is essen- 
tially on sexual relations [liaison] — by regulating them according to the law 
of preferential marriage alliances and forbidden relations — that the first 
combinatory for exchanges of women between family lines relies, develop- 
ing the fundamental commerce and concrete discourse on which human soci- 
eties are based in an exchange of gratuitous goods and magic words. 

The concrete field of individual preservation, on the other hand, through 
its links with the division not of labor, but of desire and labor — already man- 
ifest right from the first transformation that introduced human signification 
into food and up to the most highly developed forms of the production of con- 
sumable goods — sufficiently shows that it is structured in the master/ slave 

360 Ecrits 

dialectic, in which we can recognize the symbolic emergence of the imaginary 
struggle to the death that I defined above as the ego's essential structure; it is 
hardly surprising, then, that this field is exclusively reflected in this structure. 

433 I n otner words, this explains why the other great generic desire, hunger, is not 
represented, as Freud always maintained, in what the unconscious preserves 
in order to get it recognized. 

Thus Freud 's intention, which was quite legible to anyone who didn't con- 
fine himself to merely parroting Freud 's texts, became increasingly clear when 
he promoted the topography of the ego; his intention was to restore, in all its 
rigor, the separation — right down to their unconscious interference — 
between the field of the ego and that of the unconscious he discovered first, 
by showing that the former is in a "blocking" position in relation to the latter, 
the former resisting recognition of the latter through the effect of its own sig- 
nifications in speech. 

Here lies the contrast between the significations of guilt, whose discovery 
in the subject 's action dominated the first phase in the history of psychoanalysis, 
and the significations of the subject's affective frustration, instinctual inade- 
quacy, and imaginary dependence that dominate its current phase. 

It isn't going very far to say that the latter significations, whose predomi- 
nance is now consolidating through a forgetting of the former significations, 
promise us a preparatory course in general infantilization; for psychoanaly- 
sis is already allowing large-scale practices of social mystification to claim legit- 
imacy by appealing to analytic principles. 

Symbolic Debt 

Will our action go so far, then, as to repress the very truth that it implies in its 
practice? Will it put this truth back to sleep — a truth that Freud, in the pas- 
sion of the Rat Man, forever offers up so that we may recognize it, should we 
increasingly turn our vigilance away from it — namely, that the stone guest 
who came, in symptoms, to disturb the banquet of his desires was fashioned 
out of acts of treachery and vain oaths, broken promises and empty words, 
whose constellation presided over a man's birth? 

For the sour [not green] grape of speech by which the child received the 
authentication of the nothingness of existence from a father too early, and the 
grapes of wrath that responded to the words of false hope with which his mother 
lured him in feeding him with the milk of her true despair, set his teeth on edge 

434 more than if he had been weaned from an imaginary jouissance or even 
deprived of some real attentions. 

Will we escape unscathed from the symbolic game in which the real mis- 

The Freudian Thing 361 

deed pays the price for imaginary temptation? Will we turn our attention away 
from what becomes of the law when, by virtue of having been intolerable to 
the subject's loyalty, it is misrecognized by him already when it is still 
unknown to him, and from what becomes of the imperative when, having pre- 
sented itself to him through imposture, it is challenged in his heart before being 
discerned? In other words, will we turn our attention away from the main- 
springs that, in the broken link of the symbolic chain, raise from the imagi- 
nary the obscene, ferocious figure in which the true signification of the 
superego must be seen? 

It should be understood here that my criticism of a kind of analysis that 
claims to be an analysis of resistance, and is reduced ever more to the mobi- 
lization of the defenses, bears solely on the fact that it is as disoriented in its 
practice as it is in its principles, and is designed to remind analysts of their 
legitimate ends. 

The maneuvers involving dyadic complicity that this form of analysis forces 
itself to implement to achieve happiness and success can have value in our eyes 
only if they reduce the resistance, stemming from the effects of prestige in 
which the ego asserts itself, to the speech that is owned [s 'avoue] at a certain 
moment of analysis, which is the analytic moment. 

I believe that it is in the owning [laveu] of this speech, of which transfer- 
ence is the enigmatic actualization, that analysis must refind its center along 
with its gravity; and let no one imagine from what I said earlier that I con- 
ceptualize this speech as some mystical mode reminiscent of karma. For what 
is striking in the moving drama of neurosis is the absurd aspects of a discon- 
certed symbolization whose case of mistaken identity seems more derisory the 
more one delves into it. 

Adcequatio rei et intellectus: the homonymic enigma that can be brought out 
in the genitive, rei — which without even changing accents can be the genitive 
of the word reus, meaning the party to the case in a lawsuit, specifically the 
accused, and metaphorically he who has incurred a debt — surprises us by pro- 
viding, in the end, a formulation for this singular correspondence [adequation] 
that I raised as a question for our intellect and that finds its answer in the sym- 
bolic debt for which the subject is responsible as a subject of speech. 

The Training of Analysts to Come 435 

In taking up anew my analysis of the ways in which speech is able to recover 
the debt it engenders, I will thus return to the structures of language that are 
so manifestly recognizable in the earliest discovered mechanisms of the 

j62 Ecrits 

We need but thumb through the pages of Freud's work for it to become 
abundantly clear that he regarded a history of languages [langue] and institu- 
tions, and the resonances — whether attested to or not in human memory — 
of literature and of the significations involved in works of art, as necessary to 
an understanding of the text of our experience; indeed, Freud himself found 
his inspiration, ways of thinking, and arsenal of techniques therein. But he 
also believed it wasn't superfluous to make them a condition for instituting the 
teaching of psychoanalysis. 

The fact that this condition has been neglected, even in the selection of ana- 
lysts, cannot be unconnected with the results we see around us; it indicates to 
us that it is only by articulating Freud's requirements in terms of technique 
that we will be able to satisfy them. It is with an initiation into the methods of 
the linguist, the historian, and, I would add, the mathematician that we should 
now be concerned if a new generation of practitioners and researchers is to 
recover the meaning and motor force of the Freudian experience. This gen- 
eration will also find in these methods a way to avoid social-psychological 
objectification, in which the psychoanalyst seeks, in his uncertainty, the sub- 
stance of what he does, whereas it can provide him with no more than an inad- 
equate abstraction in which his practice gets bogged down and dissolves. 

Such reform will require an institutional undertaking, for it can only be 
sustained by means of constant communication with disciplines that would 
define themselves as sciences of inter subjectivity, or by the term "conjectural 
sciences," a term by which I indicate the kind of research that is now chang- 
ing the implication of the "human sciences." 

But such a direction can only be maintained by a true teaching, that is, teach- 
ing that constantly subjects itself to what is known as renewal. For the pact 
436 instituting analytic experience must take into account the fact that this expe- 

rience instates the very effects that capture it, diverting it from the subject. 

Thus, in exposing magical thinking, people don't see that it is magical 
thinking and, in fact, an alibi for thoughts about wielding power that are ever 
ready to bring about their own rejection in an action that is sustained only by 
its connection with truth. 

Freud is referring to this connection with truth when he declares that it is 
impossible to meet three challenges: to educate, govern, and psychoanalyze. 
Why are they impossible, if not for the fact that the subject can only be missed 
in these undertakings, slipping away in the margin Freud reserves for truth? 

For in these undertakings truth proves to be complex in its essence, hum- 
ble in its offices and foreign to reality, refractory to the choice of sex, akin to 
death and, on the whole, rather inhuman, Diana perhaps . . . Actaeon, too 

The Freudian Thing 


guilty to hunt the goddess, prey in which is caught, O huntsman, the shadow 
that you become, let the pack go without hastening your step, Diana will rec- 
ognize the hounds for what they are worth . . . 


1. This text was first published in L'Evolu- 
tion psychiatrique 1 (1956): 225—52. 

2. (Added in 1966:) This rewritten para- 
graph predates a line of thought I have since 

3. Namely, "Es ist Kulturarbeit etwa wie die 
Trockenlegung der Zuydersee." "It is a civiliz- 
ing task like the drying out of the Zuider Zee." 

4. One can but wonder what demon inspired 
the author of the extant French translation, 
whoever it was, to render it as "Le moi doit 
deloger le 9a" ("The ego must dislodge the 
id"). It is true that one can savor in it the tone 
of an analytic quarter in which people know 
how to carry out the sort of operation it evokes. 

437 Psychoanalysis and Its Teaching 

Talk given at the French Philosophical Society during the 
session held February 23, 1957 

As was customary, the following abstract was distributed to the members of 
the Society prior to the talk: 

Psychoanalysis and What It Teaches Us . . . 

I. In the unconscious, which is not so much deep as it is inaccessible to con- 
scious scrutiny, it speaks; the notion of a subject within the subject, transcending 
the subject, has raised questions for philosophers since Freud first wrote The 
Interpretation of Dreams. 

II. The fact that symptoms are symbolic is not the whole story. The author 

• that their use as signif iers distinguishes them from their natural meaning, thanks 
to the step of narcissism, in which the imaginary separates from the symbolic; 

• that the truth of the unconscious must be situated between the lines, since a 
broader metonymy encompasses their metaphors; 

• that, with his notion of the death instinct, Freud investigates the basis [sup- 
pot] of this truth. 

III. By challenging the propriety of Freud's investigation, contemporary 

Psychoanalysis and Its Teaching j65 

• have arrived at a declared "environmentalism," which contradicts the 
contingency Freud assigned to the object in the vicissitudes of the ten- 

• and have returned to the most simplistic form of egocentrism, which sug- 
gests a misunderstanding of the dependent status Freud later assigned to 
the ego. 

And yet . . . 

How to Teach It 

IV. The vast literature in which this contradiction and misunderstanding are 
revealed can serve as useful casuistry by demonstrating where resistance, which 
is a dupe here of its own course, is situated — namely, in the imaginary effects 
of the dyadic relation. When shed light on by another source, its fantasies make 
people take the series [suite] of these effects to be consistent. 

And this impoverished path tries to legitimate itself on the basis of the fol- 
lowing condition of psychoanalysis: that the true work in it is, by its very nature, 

V. But the same is not true of the structure of analysis, which can be formal- 
ized in a way that is completely accessible to the scientific community, pro- 
vided one relies on Freud who truly constituted it. 

For psychoanalysis is nothing more than an artifice, the components of 
which Freud provided in positing that the whole set of these components 
encompasses the very notion of these components. 

Such that, while the purely formal maintenance of these components suf- 
fices for their overall structure to be effective, the incompleteness of the ana- 
lyst's conception of these components tends, depending on how great it is, to 
be confused with the limit that the analytic process cannot go beyond in the 

The theory currently in favor verifies this with its amazing confession: the 
analyst's ego, which must be said to be autonomous at the very least, is the meas- 
ure of reality and, for the analysand [Fanalyse], his own analysis constitutes 
the testing of that reality. 

Nothing of the kind could possibly be at stake within the confines of 
analysis; what is at stake is, rather, the restoring of a symbolic chain the three 
dimensions of which indicate the directions in which the author intends to 
trace out pathways for the training of analysts. Those dimensions are the 


366 Ecrits 

• of history of a life lived as history; 

• of subjection to the laws of language, which alone are capable of overde- 

• of the intersubjective game by which truth enters reality [reel]. 

VI. The locus described as that of truth serves as a prelude to the truth of the 
locus described. 

While this locus is not the subject, it is not the other (to be written with a 
lowercase o) who, giving soul to the ego's wagers and body to the mirages of 
439 perverse desire, brings about coalescences of the signifier with the signified 

onto which all resistance grabs hold and in which all suggestion finds its piv- 
otal point, without anything being sketched out there by way of some cun- 
ning of reason, if not that they are permeable to it. 

The cunning of reason that runs through them, violence being banished, 
is the refined rhetoric on which the unconscious offers us a handle [prise\ along 
with a surprise — introducing this Other (to be provided with a capital 0), 
faith in whom is invoked by anyone when he addresses an other (with a low- 
ercase o), even if only to lie to him. 

The analyst leaves room for this Other beyond the other by the neutrality 
with which he makes himself be ne-uter, neither the one nor the other of the 
two who are there; and if he remains silent, it is in order to let this Other speak. 

The unconscious is the Other's discourse in which the subject receives his 
own forgotten message in the inverted form suitable for promises. 

This Other is, nevertheless, only halfway from a quest that the unconscious 
betrays by its difficult art and whose ever-so-informed ignorance is revealed 
by the paradoxes of the object in Freud's work. For, if we listen to him, we 
learn that reality [reel] derives its existence from a refusal, that love creates its 
object from what is lacking in reality \reel\ and that desire stops at the curtain 
behind which this lack is figured by reality [reel]. 

The author will discuss one or two of the points outlined in this abstract, 
which will serve as a reference point for the discussion. 

The talk given was couched in the following terms: 

Without stopping to wonder whether the text of my abstract was based on an 
accurate assessment of my audience, I will indicate that in raising the question 
"how can we teach what psychoanalysis teaches us?" I was not trying to give 
an illustration of my mode of teaching. This abstract lays out — so that the dis- 
cussion may use it as a reference point, as I mentioned at the end of it — theses 

Psychoanalysis and Its Teaching 367 

concerning the order that institutes psychoanalysis as a science, and then 
extracts from them the principles by which we can maintain the program of its 
teaching in this order. Were such a statement applied to modern physics, no 
one would, I think, qualify the discreet use of an algebraic formula, in order to 
indicate the order of abstraction that it constitutes, as sibylline. Why then would 
we consider ourselves to be deprived of a more succulent experience here? 

Need I indicate that such a statement assumes that the moment is now behind 440 

us at which it was important to get the existence of psychoanalysis recognized 
and, as it were, to produce certificates of good conduct on its behalf? 

I take for granted that psychoanalysis' existence as a qualified discipline is 
more than adequately accepted by all legitimate thinkers. 

No one undergoing analysis today is taxed with being unbalanced when it 
comes to judging his social or legal competence. Rather, and despite the extrav- 
agance of this viewpoint, recourse to analysis is taken to involve a praisewor- 
thy attempt at self-criticism and self-control. At the same time, the very people 
who applaud such recourse are likely to prove far more reserved regarding its 
use on themselves or their loved ones. The fact remains that the psychoana- 
lyst is considered — rather thoughtlessly, in truth — to know a lot, and the least 
credulous of his psychiatric colleagues, for example, are quite happy to refer 
all kinds of cases to him that they themselves do not know how to handle. 

Nevertheless, I assume that the specialists in the widely varied disciplines 
to whom I am speaking today have come here, given the venue, in their 
capacity as philosophers in a large enough measure for me to begin my dis- 
cussion by raising the following question: What, in their view, does analysis 
teach us that is proper to analysis, or the most proper, truly proper, truly the 
most, the most truly? 

I would hardly be going out on a limb were I to presume that the answers 
I would receive here would be more varied than at the time of the challenge 
that analysis at first presented the world. 

The revolution constituted by the categorical predominance given to the 
sexual tendencies in human motivations became obscured due to the expan- 
sion of the theme of interpersonal relations, and even of social-psychological 

Although the libidinal instances could not altogether escape characteriza- 
tion, they could, it was thought upon closer examination, be broken down into 
existential relations whose regularity and normativeness show them to have 
reached a truly remarkable state of domestication. 

Beyond that, we would supposedly see sketched out a sort of positivistic 
analogism between morals and instincts. While its conformist aspects no 441 

368 Ecrits 

longer offend our sense of propriety, they can still provoke shame, by which 
I mean the shame that is sensitive to ridicule, and would bring down the cur- 
tain — to rely here on the evidence provided by anthropological studies. 

Here psychoanalysis' contributions would seem to be imposing, although 
perhaps all the more subject to caution the more directly they are imposed. 
This can be gauged by comparing the massive renewal that occurred in the 
analysis of mythologies, owing to psychoanalytic inspiration, with the for- 
mation of a concept like that of "basic personality structure,"* with which the 
American Procrusteans torment with their yardstick the mystery of suppos- 
edly primitive souls. 

Nevertheless, one of us would be justified in standing up and underscoring 
here just how much of what our culture propagates has Freud's name written 
on it, and in affirming that, regardless of its value, its order of magnitude is 
comparable to what our culture disseminates that, for better or for worse, has 
Marx's name written on it. 

But we would also have to place in the scales a more militant Freud, a Freud 
committed to relieving forms of servitude that are more confused than those 
addressed by his paragon. 

Then you would turn to practitioners to ask them to determine the sub- 
stance of Freud's message on the basis of their own experience. But were you 
to simply peruse the clearly abundant literature in which they address their 
problems of technique, you would be surprised to find no surer line, no more 
decided path of progress in it, than his. 

It would become clear to you, rather, that if a certain degree of wear and 
tear were not foreign to the acceptance of psychoanalysis in educated circles, 
a sort of strange side effect would meet it head-on, as if some mimesis 
[mimetisme\ subverting the effort to convince, had conquered the interpreters 
in their own compromises. 

And you would then have the malaise of wondering whether this "we" 
[on] — in which you would find yourself thrown in with technicians, leading 
you to recognize in the simple existence of this "we" what it is that would thus 
like to evade your question — is not itself too questionable in its indetermina- 
tion not to cast doubt on the very fact of this recognition, assuming that the 
recognition requires that one base oneself on a firmer alterity, even if only for 
an intellectual leader. 
442 It should be clear that I assume responsibility for this casting of doubt in 

raising my question and, in this respect, as an analyst, I distinguish myself from 
those who believe that the behind-closed-doors [huis clos] nature of our tech- 
nique and our tightly sealed lips regarding our knowledge are adequate expe- 
dients by which to deal with this failing alterity. But how can one remind 

Psychoanalysis and Its Teaching 369 

analysts that error finds safety in the rules with which the worries it engen- 
ders protect themselves, and to the very degree to which people consider those 
rules to be transparent? 

Let me pose my question again now so that we can marvel at the fact that 
no one dreams any longer of answering with the simple word "unconscious," 
because this word has not raised any questions for anyone for a long time. It 
has not raised any questions because people have endeavored to ensure that 
its use in Freud 's work appears only drowned in the midst of homonymous 
conceptions to which it owes nothing, even though they preceded it. 

These conceptions, far from overlapping, have the following feature in com- 
mon: they constitute a dualism in psychical functions, in which unconscious 
is opposed to conscious like instinctual to intellectual, automatic to controlled, 
intuitive to discursive, passionate to rationalized, and elementary to integrated. 
Such conceptions created by psychologists were, nevertheless, relatively 
impermeable to the accents of a natural harmony that the romantic notion of 
the soul had promoted regarding the same themes; for they preserved in the 
background an image of levels which, situating their object in the lower one, 
took it to be confined there and even contained by the upper agency, and which, 
in any case, imposed upon its effects — if they were to be accepted at the level 
of this agency — a filtering in which what they lost in energy they gained in 

The history of these presuppositions deserves attention in more than one 
respect, beginning with the political biases on which they are based and which 
accompany them; the latter refer us to nothing less than a social organicism, 
an organicism which — since the time of the unsurpassable simplicity with 
which it was articulated in the fable that earned the consul Menenius Agrippa 
an ovation — has hardly enriched its metaphor except on the basis of the con- 
scious role granted to the brain in the activities of psychological command in 
order to arrive at the now assured myth of the virtues of a "brain trust."* 

It would be no less curious to observe how the values masked here obliter- 443 

ate the notion of "automatism" in medical anthropology and pre-Freudian psy- 
chology, compared to its use by Aristotle, which is far more amenable to 
everything that has already been restored to it in the contemporary revolu- 
tion in machines. 

The use of the term "liberation," to designate the functions that are 
revealed in neurological disintegrations, clearly marks the values of conflict 
which preserve here — in other words, in a place where it has no business 
being — a truth of a different provenance. Is it this authentic provenance that 
Freud found anew in the conflict that he placed at the heart of the psychical 
dynamic that constitutes his discovery? 

370 Ecrits 

First, let us observe the locus in which the conflict is denoted, and then its 
function in reality [reel]. As for the first, we find it in symptoms that we 
approach only at the level at which we must not simply say that they are 
expressed but at which the subject articulates them in words — assuming it is 
important not to forget that this is the crux of the constant "chatting" to which 
analysis limits its means of action and even its modes of examination, a posi- 
tion which would render the entire technique inconceivable, including that 
applied to children, if it were not constitutive and instead merely manifest in 
the analysis of adults. 

This conflict is read and interpreted in the text [of this "chatting"], which 
must be enriched through the procedure of free association. In this sense, it is 
thus neither simply the obtuse pressure nor the static-like noise of the uncon- 
scious tendency that makes itself heard in this discourse, but the interferences 
of its voice, if I may introduce in this manner what I will have to elaborate on 
at length. 

What can we really say about this voice? Do we find anew here the imag- 
inary sources whose prestige romanticism incarnated in the Volksgeist, the spirit 
of the race? If that were the import of the symbolism by means of which Freud 
made headway in the analysis of symptoms while simultaneously defining their 
psychoanalytic meaning, we would be unable to see why Freud excommuni- 
cated Jung, or what authorizes Freud's followers to continue to anathematize 
Jung's followers. In fact, there is nothing more different than the reading that 
these two schools apply to the same object. What is funny here is that the 
Freudians proved unable to formulate such a clear difference in a satisfactory 
444 manner. Reveling in the words "scientific" and even "biological," which, like 

all words, can be spoken by all mouths, did not allow them to score any points 
along this pathway, even in the eyes of psychiatrists — their heart of hearts does 
not fail to warn them about the import of the use they themselves make of 
these words in such uncertain procedures. 

Here, however, the path was not simply traced out for us by Freud: he paved 
the whole road for us with the most sweeping, unvarying, and unmistakable 
assertions. Read his work, open his texts to any page, and you will rediscover 
the foundational stonework of this royal road. 

If the unconscious can be the object of a kind of reading that has shed light 
on so many mythical, poetic, religious, and ideological themes, it is not 
because it provides their genesis with the intermediary link of a sort of "sig- 
nificantness" [significativite] of nature in man, or even of a more universal 
signatura rerum that would be at the core of their possible resurgence in each 
individual. Psychoanalyzable symptoms, whether normal or pathological, can 
be distinguished not only from diagnostic indices but from all graspable forms 

Psychoanalysis and Its Teaching sji 

of pure expressiveness insofar as they are sustained by a structure that is iden- 
tical to the structure of language. By this I do not mean a structure that can 
be situated in some sort of supposedly generalized semiology which can be 
drawn from its limbo regions, but rather the structure of language as it man- 
ifests itself in what I will call "natural languages," those that are effectively 
spoken by human groups. 

This refers to the foundation of the structure, namely, to the duplicity that 
subjects the two registers that are bound together in it to different laws: the 
registers of the signifier and the signified. The word "register" here desig- 
nates two chains taken in their entirety; and the primary fact that they are dis- 
tinct aprioristically obviates any possibility of establishing a term-by-term 
equivalence between these registers, regardless of the size of the chains we 
examine. (In fact, such an equivalence turns out to be infinitely more com- 
plex than any one-to-one correspondence, the model of which is only con- 
ceivable between one signifying system and another signifying system, 
according to its definition as given in the mathematical theory of groups.) 

Thus, if symptoms can be read, it is because they themselves are already 445 

inscribed in a writing process. As particular unconscious formations, symp- 
toms are not significations, but their relation to a signifying structure that deter- 
mines them. If you will allow me this play on words, I would say that what is 
always at stake is the agreement between the subject and the verb. 

Indeed, what Freud's discovery brings us back to is the enormity of the 
order into which we have entered — into which we are, as it were, born a sec- 
ond time, in leaving behind the state which is rightly known as the infans state, 
for it is without speech — namely, the symbolic order constituted by language, 
and the moment of the concrete universal discourse and of all the furrows 
opened up by it at this time, in which we had to find lodging. 

For the main notion articulated here by my remarks goes well beyond the 
functional and even notional apprenticeship to which the narrow-minded hori- 
zon of pedagogues tried to reduce the relations between the individual and 

If man must truly find lodging in a "milieu" that has just as much a right 
to our consideration as the edges of reality \reel\ wrongly presumed to be the 
only ones that generate experience, Freud 's discovery shows us that the milieu 
of symbolism is consistent enough to even render inadequate the locution that 
would say of the lodging in question that it does not happen [va] all by itself, 
for what is serious is that it does happen all by itself, even when things are 
going [va] badly. 

In other words, the alienation that had been accurately described to us for 
some time, although on a somewhat panoramic level, as constitutive of the 

3J2. Ecrits 

relations among men on the basis of the relations between their labor and the 
forms assumed by their production — this alienation, as I was saying, now 
appears in some sense redoubled because it manifests itself in a particularity 
that joins with being in forms that must truly be qualified as unprogressive. 
However, this does not suffice to characterize this discovery as reactionary, 
regardless of the complicit uses to which it may have been put. One would do 
better to explain in this way the enraged sullenness of petit-bourgeois mores 
that seem to accompany a form of social progress that misrecognizes its main- 
spring in all cases: for presently, it is insofar as this progress is endured that it 
legitimates psychoanalysis, and it is insofar as it is put into action that it pro- 
scribes psychoanalysis. The result is that the effects of Freud's discovery have 
446 not yet gone beyond those that Diogenes expected from his lantern. 

There is nothing here, however, that contradicts the vast dialectic that makes 
us serfs of history by superimposing its waves on the brewing of our grand 
migrations, in what attaches each of us to a scrap of discourse that is more 
alive than his very life, if it is true that, as Goethe said, when "that which is 
without life is alive, it can also produce life." 1 

For it is also true that, having been unable to proffer this scrap of discourse 
from our throats, each of us is condemned to make himself into its living alpha- 
bet to trace out its fatal line. In other words, at every level of its marionette's 
game, it borrows some element so that the sequence of elements suffices to attest 
to a text without which the desire that is borne in it would not be indestructible. 

But this already overstates what we bring this attestation, whereas in its 
deportment it quite neglects us, transmitting, without our approval, its trans- 
formed cipher in our filial lineage. For even if there were no one to read it for 
as many centuries as was true of the hieroglyphics in the desert, it would remain 
as irreducible in its absolute nature as a signifier as the hieroglyphics would 
have remained amid the shifting sands and silence of the stars if no human 
being had come along to restore their signification. 

The following share in this irreducibility: the fragile smoke of dreams, like 
rebuses at the bottom of one 's dish (dreams and rebuses being considered by 
Freud to be similar in their elaboration); bungled actions, like typographical 
errors (both of which are successful in their signifierness rather than failed 
significations); and the frivolity of jokes — the specific joy of which, as Freud 
shows us on the basis of his technique, stems from the fact that they make us 
share in the dominance of the signifier over the significations of our fate that 
are the hardest to bear. 

Aren't these, in fact, the three registers that are taken up in the three pri- 
mordial works in which Freud discovered the laws of the unconscious? If you 
read them or reread them with this key, you will be surprised to note that Freud, 

Psychoanalysis and Its Teaching jj7j 

in enunciating these laws in detail, merely anticipated the laws that Ferdinand 

de Saussure was to bring to light several years later when he paved the way 447 

for modern linguistics. 

I would not dream of establishing a table of concordances here whose 
overly rapid construction would rightly be open to objection. I have indi- 
cated elsewhere what condensation, displacement, considerations of repre- 
sentability, and sequences (in which, interestingly enough, Freud at first 
sought the equivalent of a syntax) correspond to in the fundamental relation 
between the signified and the signifier. 

I simply want to indicate that the function of the signifier proves to pre- 
dominate in both the simplest and most complex symptoms, having an effect 
already at the level of puns. We see this, for example, in Freud's extraordinary 
analysis of the crux of the mechanism of forgetting (1898), in which the rela- 
tion between the symptom and the signifier seems to emerge fully armed from 
an unprecedented thought. 

Recall the broken tip of the memory's sword: the signor of the name Sig- 
norelli that Freud could not recall, Signorelli being the author of the famous 
fresco of the Antichrist in the Cathedral at Orvieto, even though the details 
of the fresco and the very self-portrait of the painter that is included in it seemed 
to present themselves all the more clearly to his mind. This is because signor^ 
along with Herr, the absolute Master, is aspirated and repressed by the apoc- 
alyptic breeze that blows in Freud 's unconscious in the echoes of the conver- 
sation he is in the process of carrying on: It is the disturbance, as he insists 
there, of a theme which has just emerged, by the preceding theme — which is, 
in fact, that of death for which one has assumed responsibility. 

Thus we find again here the constitutive condition that Freud imposes on 
a symptom in order for it to deserve to be called a "symptom" in the analytic 
sense of the term, which is that a memory element from a special, earlier sit- 
uation be taken up anew in order to articulate the current situation — in other 
words, that this memory element be unconsciously employed in it as a signi- 
fying element, with the effect of shaping the indeterminacy of the lived expe- 
rience into a tendentious signification. Doesn't that say it all? 

I will thus consider it sufficient to underscore the relationship between the 
effects of the unconscious and the twofold construction of synchrony and 
diachrony — which, as necessary as it is, it would be pedantic of me to elabo- 
rate on in such company — by providing a fable to bring out, through a sort 
of stereoscopy, both the style of the unconscious and the response that it is 
suitable to give it. 

If the unconscious indeed seems to give new support to the Biblical proverb 448 

which says that "The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth 

374 Ecrits 

are set on edge," it is on the basis of a readjustment that perhaps satisfies the 
nullity with which Jeremiah strikes it in citing it. 

For I will say that it is because it was said that "the sour grapes that were 
eaten by the fathers set the children's teeth on edge," that the child — for whom 
these grapes are indeed far too sour [Wtt], being those of the disappointment 
all too often brought him, as everyone knows, by the stork — dons anew his 
fox mask face. 

Of course, the lessons dispensed by a woman of genius who revolutionized 
our knowledge of the child's imaginary formations — the themes of which the 
initiated will recognize if I entertain the fanciful notion of calling her the tripe 
butcher — teach us to tell the child that he would like to rip those bad-object 
grapes out of the stork's guts and that this is why he is afraid of the fox. I am 
not saying no. But I have more confidence in La Fontaine 's fable to introduce 
us to the structures of myth, that is, to what necessitates the intervention of 
the frightening fourth party whose role, as a signifier in phobia, seems to be 
far more of a motor force to me. 

Leave this mechanism to our study and retain but the moral that this apo- 
logue finds in my wish that this reference to the holy text, Jeremiah 31.29, if 
it is not altogether inconceivable to encounter it in the unconscious, would not 
automatically (a serendipitous term here) make the analyst wonder about the 
person in the patient's "environment," as people have been putting it for some 
time now, whose telephone number it would be. 

Whether this joke* be good or bad, you will realize that I am not haphaz- 
ardly taking the risk of tying it so desperately to the letter, for it is through 
the mark of arbitrariness characteristic of the letter that the extraordinary con- 
tingency of accidents that give the unconscious its true face can be explained. 

This is why a slap — being passed down for several generations, born first 
of the violence of passion, but then becoming more and more enigmatic, being 
repeated in compulsive scenarios (the construction of which it seems to deter- 
mine in the manner of a story by Raymond Roussel) until it is no longer any- 
thing but an impulse punctuating with its syncopation an almost paranoiac 
449 distrust of women — will tell us more when it is inserted as a signifier into a 

context in which, to an eye glued to a peephole, figures who are less charac- 
terized by their real psychology than by profiles comparable to those of 
Tartaglia and Pantalone in the commedia dell'arte are found anew from one 
age to the next in a transformed framework, forming the figures of the tarot 
from which the choices (that were decisive in his destiny) of objects that are 
now charged for him with the most disconcerting of valences have really 
stemmed, albeit unbeknown to him. 

I will add that it is only in this way th